A Look at the End of East End Fest

The East End Fest has been getting some heat lately but not half as much as those who oppose it. Between a petition at 400 strong, vague news pieces and a volatile facebook feed, this new uproar is alienating local business owners and defending the festival of drinking with what I see as assumptions and fallacies.

Though many have cried out, Joshua Headley, has come out of the woodwork to lead the opposition to opposition. Aside from making a brutal facebook attack against Mrs Bernunzio, owner of Bernunzio’s Uptown Music who criticized the Fest, he has a petition on Change.org, a letter to the city and has provided numbers of businesses that oppose.

Headley, in his letter, makes several points towards saving the EEF. Though his efforts are valiant, and in theory I support him, his points for the issue are questionable.

To start, he states that business in the East End benefits from the festival. This isn’t true.
Precedently, the festival only benefits bars.That’s six business out of some 300 existing in the area. From salons, to bookstores, to a library, to a music school, to a news agency, laundromats and law firms, the overwhelming majority of neighborhood tenants are resoundingly unrepresented in the current state of the fest. (Be what ever reason that is.)

He follows this with another assumption that businesses close at 6pm anyways, so the festival isn’t stepping on any shoes. This is also incorrect. Set up for the fest starts early in the day and cripples parking for the entire area. Business almost stops due to the gargantuan task of setting up the festival. The day time non-citites who need to conduct business are overwhelmed and cannot maneuver the city. Store front signs are blocked by early tents. Parking spaces taken by tables. Money is genuinely lost by those not participating in the night’s festivities.

He then goes on.

Headly says that the Festival was first, and “the revival of the area has been built on the backs of restaurants, bars, music, parades, and festivals.”  But the East End isn’t the Public Market,  it’s a bustling economy. The bars are supported by the thousands of people who hold jobs in the area and drink after work. The shops are supported by their astounding class and uniqueness. The neighborhood is entirely self sufficient.

Thus saying “businesses such as Java’s, Uptown Music, and the Contemporary Art Gallery would never have had customers if it weren’t for the trail-blazing contributions of events like The East End Music Festival, The Jazz Festival, and several of Rochester’s annual parades” is insulting.

I’m sure our readers agree that festival days are the worst times to go to Java’s. The coffee shop has stood alone and brought, introduced and seduced more city patrons than any festival ever will, (as I’m sure Green Wood Books has in its excellence, and hell, Moe’s for its smoking and liquor selection.) It needs to be understood that the End does not need the festival like the festival needs the East End.

Thus, let’s end the hateful irony that Bernunzio’s, a supporter of local music, can oppose the East End Fest. The shop holds more shows throughout the year than the festival does, and, at this state, couldn’t be a part of it if even if they wanted to. Do you think that they want to have drunks playing Free Bird on a $4000 dollar guitar?

Rochester, let’s call a spade a spade. The East End Fest is not a pinnacle of culture for our city. It’s a drunk fest, and that’s why it’s popular. Relax and know that organizing is not going to end local music in our city and be honest with ourselves. If we want to drink and watch music, let’s just use our festival ground, Manhattan Square. If we want to enjoy an area, let’s do so and keep the drinking by the bars.

And since I have a blog, I’m going to say something presumptuous,. If we need big festivals to bring suburbanites to downtown for one night, screw ‘em. One day they’ll realize all the potential Rochester offers. Or maybe they won’t.

(Sorry Josh.)

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One comment on “A Look at the End of East End Fest
  1. Josh says:


    Please carefully re-read my letter to the City of Rochester Department of Special Events. You claim that the points in the letter are full of “assumptions and fallacies,” but you provide no concrete evidence or figures to the contrary.

    1) I do not “lead the opposition” to the dismantlers of the EEF. Please provide a source for this information, as there are many businesses, organizations, and individuals who are trying to preserve the EEF.
    2) I’m not sure what you mean by saying that I have “come out of the woodwork.” I didn’t realize I was even IN the woodwork to begin with.
    3) The businesses who are trying to shut down the EEF are not a secret. Their opposition is public information which was published long before I made a Change.org petition. I am not the one who brought their opposition to light: they did it themselves.
    4) You stated this: “…he states that business in the East End benefits from the festival…” Please re-read my letter to the City of Rochester Department of Special Events. I stated that the EEF, along with other festivals and events (like parades, etc) HAVE benefitted the businesses in the area. The City of Rochester has purposely and effectively enabled and promoted such events in the East End for a couple decades now in an effort to build interest in the area. Increased interest in the area brings businesses and residents. Businesses and residents buy and lease store fronts, consume and provide resources, and create demand for the one thing that the City truly lacks: HOUSING. Housing creates tax and business revenue, and the whole cycle feeds itself. This cycle starts with “building interest” in the area, something which I have stated that EEF has been a part of. No one can deny the fact that East End businesses are economically benefitted simply by the free advertising they get when thousands of people walk past their store front during Jazz Festival, EEF, and the handful of large parades in the area.
    5) You stated that there are 300 businesses in the East End Area. Please clarify this. There are hardly more than a couple dozen businesses along the street from Matthews St. to Gibbs St. I count 17 businesses that are in the area which have any claim of being affected by EEF. Sure, there are 300+ businesses anywhere East of Main/Clinton, but they are not affected by EEF in the slightest.
    6) The “businesses close at 6pm anyways” argument – – You are correct, setup for EEF starts before 6pm. In my letter, I ask for those businesses to provide information supporting their claims that they are economically disadvantaged by EEF. An historic sales record would prove or disprove lost sales on EEF days/nights compared to all other Friday nights. There has been no response or action here. The Jazz Festival disrupts area businesses for a far greater length of time, not to mention closure of the entire East Avenue for our beloved parades each year.
    7) Parking. Your argument, and the argument of a few area businesses, is that EEF setup affects parking. This makes no sense to me, as there is a giant parking garage right in the middle of the action. I’ve parked in that garage during nearly every EEF and Jazz Fest that I’ve ever attended without ever being in danger of the garage being full. Again, records could be obtained from the parking garage which is operated by the Cultural Center Commission. The complaining businesses cannot possibly rely exclusively on the couple dozen metered parking spaces along the street.
    8) You make it seem like I am arguing that without an EEF, the East End will not thrive or succeed. This is not my argument at all. One piece of my argument is that the festival has contributed economically to the development of the entire area, and that the small handful of businesses who now complain are biting a hand that has contributed to feeding them. Again, please do not put arguments in my mouth without carefully reading my petition letter.
    9) You called the EEF a “drunk fest.” This is unequivocally disproven by this past Friday’s EEF. Rain played a small factor until the skies cleared up just after 6pm. The beer does not drive the crowd down there: the music does. The music was scaled back to such an extent that the crowd never showed up. The least populated area during a typical EEF is right in the middle of East Ave between Scio and Swan St. Why? No music there. People are jam-packed up by the stages. No stages, no people. Kudos to the whiners for making this happen.

    The “Sorry Josh” at the end of your blog is a weak jab that insinuates you have intelligently refuted the information in my petition letter. Please do a little more research before simply calling EEF a “drunk fest” and telling suburbanites to stay out of the city. I would revise it to say “Sorry, Josh, that so few people have read our blog entry or “like” us on Facebook that we cannot provide much free advertising for your Change.org petition.”

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