By Jeff Clemetson | Editor
Changes, improvements to events discussed
La Mesa Village Association (LMVA) formed a little over a year ago; it has since taken the reigns on public events held in the city’s iconic downtown and grown from an initial 19 members to over 60, according to LMVA chair Aaron Dean.
On Jan. 17, LMVA held an open house meeting at San Pasqual Winery to pitch membership to interested businesses; report on the group’s successes in hosting events in the Village; and share and brainstorm ideas for improving events for this year.
The big news to come out of the meeting was the plan to move La Mesa’s farmers market from its current location, at the foot of Date Avenue across from the police station, to La Mesa Boulevard, between Fourth and Palm avenues.
While the move will allow for more booths, the decision to relocate was based mostly on improving traffic in the Village.
“Foot traffic is the lifeblood that is keeping this village alive,” said LMVA secretary and owner of Fourpenny House, Peter Soutowood. “As it grows, it’s better for all the businesses.”
The lack of foot traffic in the current location has been difficult for retailers and visitors alike, Dean said.
“It’s a good market of people, but it doesn’t do much for the retailers around here,” he said. “Really great farmers markets, they become a thing to do — you take your kids, go get some crepes, go into a retail store, you go get some dinner — you’re walking the community. So we have a motivation to bring it right onto La Mesa Boulevard.”
The farmers market will still be held on Fridays between 2 and 7 p.m. and the target set for the move to La Mesa Boulevard is April.
“We decided it was important to put something on the calendar as a goal to reach for,” Dean said. “It may not happen until May or June, but our goal is to shoot for April 20.”
Another big piece of news to come out of the open house was that LMVA is considering changing or cancelling all or some of the classic car shows that are traditionally held weekly during the summer, although no decision has been made and the car shows will be back this year.
“There’s a lot of views on the car show and whether it’s beneficial to the retailers and the community,” Dean said. “The feedback has been when we talk [with the] 19 of us who are the ongoing members, that it hasn’t been beneficial and it has actually hurt a lot of the businesses.”
The reason local commerce has been affected by the car shows is because attendees bring coolers with their own food and beverages and take parking from potential customers.
Instead of cancelling the car shows, however, some ideas were brought forth to change them, such as limiting them to once a month, closing the street during the event and adding more family-friendly activities.
Dean also suggested finding those who have a passion for the car show to take over its planning in a subcommittee.
Making changes to the annual Flag Day Parade was also discussed.
“The parade is unbelievably long and people love it, but after the parade is over, it becomes a ghost town down here, so we’ve talked about keeping the street closed and having additional activities that day to keep families engaged and down here in La Mesa,” Dean said. “You have so many families. It was great to see the amount of kids and families that were down here for it, I just wish they would have stayed.”
LMVA plans on forming a subcommittee to look at ways to improve the activities for Flag Day, including possible blow-up slides and arts and crafts, and one woman suggested a scavenger hunt, which would bring families into the shops on the boulevard.
One event that will largely remain the same as last year is Oktoberfest.
“Octoberfest was a big success from the association’s standpoint,” Dean said.
Unlike Oktoberfests in the past, which were put on by previous business associations, last year’s Oktoberfest had all the city fees paid in advance and even turned a $9,800 return for LMVA.
“We were ecstatic about that,” exclaimed LMVA vice chair and owner of Amethyst Moon, Theresa Favro.
The extra funds for LMVA wasn’t the only benefit for Favro.
“In my 27 years, we had the best Christmas I ever had this year,” she said. “I think it was a lot of people coming back from Oktoberfest, because that was so successful. I kept hearing over and over, ‘Wow, La Mesa’s really great! I came for Oktoberfest and I never came here before.’”
In addition to the retailers on La Mesa Boulevard, craft vendors at Oktoberfest also reported doing well.
“The vendors we’ve re-contacted so far are all looking to come back, so that’s a really good sign,” Dean said.
Also back next year will be McFarlane Promotions, who planned and promoted last year’s Oktoberfest, ensuring the event will remain mostly the same, including the same footprint and activities; however, there may be some improvements in 2018.
“Some exciting things this coming year is Budweiser working on getting us a true German emcee for part of the event,” Dean said. “We are looking at expanding the VIP experience. The ferris wheel will be back; more lighting and more signage.”
The only thing that won’t be back are the DJs playing music outside the beer garden between bands.
“The music was deafening, to the point of some businesses calling and complaining to me and then calling the police,” said La Mesa vice mayor Kristine Alessio.
“We agree the DJ thing is gone,” Dean added. “[Last year] they had a hard time booking a lot of the German bands just because we were so short on time. This year, we’ve already secured 50 percent of the music already.”
Holiday in the Village
There will be some scheduling changes to this year’s Holiday in the Village.
Dean said that last year’s event was a success, especially on the Saturday night. This year, Holiday in the Village will be held on Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sunday, to offer two evenings for the event.
LMVA will put on four Boulevard Stroll events this year and each of them will either coincide with other events in the Village or have special themes of their own.
Boulevard Strolls are evenings where Village businesses stay open late, offer specials or have activities to keep people shopping and walking around later than usual. Examples of past Strolls include a luau-themed event, as well as a holiday event that was paired with “Shimmer,” the city’s tree lighting ceremony.
New events, new members
LMVA also discussed the possibility of new events.
Favro suggested an antique show and an art/wine walk. Another man attending the meeting suggested a “Taste of the Village” event, to showcase the soon-to-be 12 restaurants on La Mesa Boulevard.
Dean said while all ideas are welcome, he also brought up that LMVA membership would need to increase and the board would need to be filled. There are currently five open positions on the LMVA board; one treasurer and four board members are needed. He pitched LMVA’s ability to influence the city as one benefit undecided business owners should consider with regard to joining.
“We’re actually a fairly powerful group when you look at the whole,” he said. “When we have a majority of businesses as part of our organization, if we need to go into the city and we need to deal with things, or there are community issues, we’re very strong together and we can make things happen.”
— Reach Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.