After a three-year run along Madison Street, Music Fest is no more. Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce, said Star Events alerted the group that they wouldn’t be able to hold the fest again this summer.
“Rather than making a quick decision to find an event to replace Music Fest,” Kokenes said, “the Chamber is focusing on identifying ways to better support our members and the business community. We’re having thoughtful conversations about our events and programming and reaching out to our members to learn more about their needs.”
Kokenes said she was happy for businesses that saw sales go up during the event—like Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor, which had lines of people out the door in years past—but noted in a 2018 Review article that making money was never the fest’s main goal.
“The primary goal of Music Fest,” she explained, “was not to make money. The goal is to attract some of the 1.6 million people who live within a 20-minute drive of Forest Park to discover what our businesses have to offer, to keep Forest Park’s name out there, showcase our village and local businesses, and create an opportunity for Madison Street exposure.”
Dan Watts, co-owner of O’Sullivans Public House, previously said he believes the fest accomplished that mission.
“From O’Sullivan’s perspective,” he said “the Music Festival allows my restaurant to attract new customers who have not dined with us. [ In 2017] several fest goers were introduced to our food offerings and subsequently became regular patrons.”
Some businesses lost money during the three-day festival, in part because customers were unwilling to pay the entry fee to gain access to Madison Street, where they would ordinarily shop or dine. Last year one of those was Team Blonde, a women’s clothing boutique. Heidi Vance, a co-owner of the shop, said that, although she lost business during the three-day event, she “gets it. The bigger picture is that what is good for the street is in the long run good for each of the individual businesses.”
Mike Keating, deputy chief of police, said officers felt good about Music Fest, because Star Events has a “fantastic security team” which freed up Forest Park police to focus on relationship building. John Doss, director of public works, said Star Events relieved his crew of much of the work they had to do when, up until 2012, the Chamber put on an event called Summerfest by themselves.
Kokenes said she understood why Star Events cancelled.
“When you consider the overhead for entertainment, staffing, security, staging, sound and other equipment, the event would have had to draw steady crowds of thousands each day in order to be profitable,” she said.
“With the knowledge that it typically takes three to five years for a new event to reach its potential, the Star Events team organized a professional, safe and clean event with top-notch equipment and dynamic entertainment. But despite years of hard work by the team at Star Events and the Chamber, Music Fest just didn’t grow in popularity like some of the Chamber’s other successful events such as the parade, the wine walks and the holiday walk.”