Organizers say Rock the Harbor brought thousands of people to city, but it remains to be seen if festival that closed downtown streets, marina paid for itself
Thousands of people attended Port Washington’s celebration of Harley-Davidson’s 110th anniversary Friday, but whether that was enough for the festival to break even remains to be answered.
That’s important because, even though organizers vowed not to use funding from Port Washington Main Street, the organization will have to cover any shortfall, and that could sap resources it relies on to support other events intended to promote downtown.
Main Street is primarily funded through an assessment on downtown properties and businesses.
Just two weeks ago, organizers were trying to raise almost $30,000 they said was needed to cover festival expenses.
It’s too early to say whether festival revenue — sponsorships, concert tickets, beer sales and other event income — was enough to offset expenses, said Cathy Wilger, one of the organizers.
It will be a couple weeks before all the bills are in and tallied, she said.
Sara Grover, executive director of Main Street, said Tuesday she and Main Street President Rob Helm discussed the organization’s response made the following statement:
“While the Rock the Harbor committee had great results from the event, we don’t have all the bills in. It’s really too early to tell. We really don’t know what the bottom line is.
“From the beginning, the committee was in a difficult position to raise funds. But we will work with the committee to make sure the bills are paid.”
What is known is that Rock the Harbor brought thousands of people, residents and motorcyclists alike, to downtown for an afternoon and evening of music, food and shopping.
“We were very pleased,” Wilger said. “We did what we set out to do, to bring people to downtown Port Washington and show them what we are and what we have here in town.
“We heard lots of good things from businesses. People raved about the music. And a lot of the visitors said they felt welcomed.”
Wilger said the crowd was made up of local people and people from throughout the world, including Canada, France and Mexico.
City Administrator Mark Grams said the event drew “a nice crowd.”
“I was surprised by the number of local people I saw there,” he said.
The crowd grew as the afternoon went on, Grams said, noting rainy weather in Milwaukee prompted people attending Port’s event to urge others to join them.
“People were calling their friends in Milwaukee telling them to come up here, the weather was fine here,” Grams said.
The vendors on the street were pleased with the crowd, Grover said.
“For anybody who had something to showcase, I think it was a very good marketing tool,” she said. “It brought people in, which was the goal of the event, and it showcased downtown.”
Not everyone was happy with the festival. Downtown streets, including Franklin, Washington and Main streets and portions of Grand Avenue were closed. The marina closed early on the Friday of a busy Labor Day weekend and some businesses also closed early.
It was more difficult than expected for downtown workers and people who weren’t driving motorcycles to find parking and to navigate downtown, Grams said.
A few people called the city to complain about the parking situation and similar issues, he said.
Police Chief Kevin Hingiss said the crowd was orderly, adding there were no incidents reported in connection with the festival.
“It was a very well behaved crowd,” he said.
Image Information: STANDING AMID A row of Harley-Davidson motorcycles parked on Grand Avenue in Port Washington during Rock the Harbor Friday was John “Deuce” Dedrick. Dedrick was one of thousands of people who attended the street festival to celebrate the iconic motorcycle maker’s 110th anniversary. Photo by Sam Arendt