With the 2016 Soybean Festival completed, many people are still wondering why the nightly concerts were not free this year as they were in previous years.
This year, each concert cost $20 per person. Mayor Randy Brundige says that they looked at the situation from many different angles before making the decision, but the choice ultimately came down to safety.
“We started getting such huge crowds that we thought we had to control it a little bit more for the safety of individuals…. we had to rethink things,” said Brundige. We had to put it in a venue that was accessible for emergency personnel. We had to look at it from several different angles and we just wanted a little bit more crowd control and safety control.”
According to Brundige, there was an incident last year in which a concert attendee collapsed in the crowd and a medical team was unable to reach her because of the size and lack of organization of the crowd. They created the temporary walls and added different types of seating to better manage the concert crowd, while ensuring everyone still had a good view of the stage.
While Brundige believes that those who attended the concerts enjoyed them, he understands that many people didn’t go because of the new fee.
“We knew the first year [of having a concert fee], we would take a hit on attendance, and that was anticipated,” said Brundige. “But it wasn’t to make money, because the concerts don’t make money.”
The goal was to be able to manage the crowds, but still make the Soybean Festival affordable and accessible for everyone. One of the ways in which they tried to accomplish this was through the many events that continued to be free and open to the public. Some of the free events included a concert in the park and what Brundige called “micro-shows”, such as the lumberjack show, the pet show and the cow town show. While the main concerts were not free, Brundige insists that there were plenty of other free events, both musical and otherwise.
While the personnel in City Hall know that the concert attendance saw a decrease from years past, they will not be sure of the exact numbers for a few weeks. Looking into the future, Brundige said that the city does intend to continue charging for concerts in the future.
“I know we will reevaluate what went on this year in the next month or two,” said Brundige. “From all indications, yes, that venue will be there again.”