Downtown group retires Dancing on Main Street

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JASON HAWK
EDITOR

This year’s Dancing on Main Street festival was the last, it turns out.

Main Street Amherst, the nonprofit group that has held the August beer-and-bands party since 2003, has decided it is time for the event to end.

“I think all events have a finish time,” said director Teresa Gilles.

The festival’s demise was rumored this summer and we fielded questions about it during the event.

At the time, Gilles said no official vote had been taken to end Dancing on Main Street.

In the months since, a feeling that the festival has run its course grew. Organizers didn’t want to make a snap decision immediately after the 2018 event and talked about the decision for months, she said.

The factor that ultimately led to its cancellation: a lack of volunteers.

“I don’t think people realize how much work goes into an event like that,” she said. “It comes down to volunteers.”

A similar shortage caused the demise of the Amherst Historical Society’s annual Old Time Jamboree in 2012, and many years ago the Amherst Potato Festival.

Gilles said she’s heard and seen pleas to revive those community events but believes it unlikely.

There was also concern among police about safety at Dancing on Main Street, Lt. Mark Cawthon has said.

He told us that late-night crowd control was an issue, including rowdy drinkers and people he felt showed up at the tail end of the event, some with intentions of stirring up trouble.

“The board feels it is time for something fresh and new,” Gilles wrote in an announcement of Dancing on Main Street’s end. “We would love to hear from the community on what they would like to see, as far as events go, and how they could help implement those ideas.”

She said the event would not have been possible without the help of downtown taverns, the backing of the city of Amherst, and the Amherst police department.

“Main Street Amherst is grateful for the hundreds of volunteers, sponsors, bands, and vendors that have been involved with this event,” said Main Street promotional chair Joni Poli. “Without you, we could have never gone on for 15 years. We hope that you will continue to support the businesses and the other events we put on for our Amherst community.”

Whatever replaces Dancing on Main Street may be held in August or another time of the year, said Gilles.

Whatever form it takes, the point will be to showcase Amherst’s historical center.

“Main Street’s job is to bring the people” and expose them to what the city’s historical downtown district has to offer, Gilles said.

“The downtown area used to be the hub of activity and Main Street Amherst wanted to create that experience again. The organization teamed up with the local taverns to help bring people downtown to shop, eat, listen to local musicians, and visit with one another,” she said.

For example, Dancing on Main Street was started to highlight the city’s tavern and pub culture. Over the years, it became the biggest sales day for Park Avenue and Church Street bars.

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