Historic City News recruited St Augustine Vice-Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline to make her way deep into the photo pit, front and center stage of the Gentlemen of the Road stopover, to grab some pictures of the band that has captured the attention of the community over the past three months.
The concerts have lasted two days; the effects may change the discussion about bringing major cultural events to town for years to come. It is impossible to say, with any specificity, the financial impact the Mumford and Sons appearance had on St Augustine. Depending on which pundit or publicity-wrangling talking head you speak to, the number will be in “the millions”. Those are just a guess … educated, possibly; but, a guess, nonetheless.
Bars and restaurants downtown and at St Augustine Beach are singing the Indie rock band’s praises this morning as they prepare to settle back into the normal September slow period. Bed and Breakfasts, motels and hotels, will do the same. Virtually every hotel room in the area has been reserved for many weeks.
Retail stores downtown and around other areas of St Augustine saw an increase in foot traffic; aided, in part, by free mini-concert performances at venues like the gazebo in the Plaza de la Constitution and from an impromptu stage in front of City Hall. Sales, however, the lifeblood of retail establishments, didn’t materialize to some merchant’s expectations. Stores stocked heavily along St George, Charlotte, Spanish and Riberia Streets; backup sales clerks were scheduled, some were sent home early, and some shops downtown even closed. “Plenty of lookers — not so many buyers,” one retailer said of his experience with the concertgoers. Another shopkeeper on St George Street told Historic City News that his normal Friday-Saturday weekends have been as good; and some, like July 4th and Memorial Day, even better than for this event.
Traffic and parking intensified in the evenings — that is a time of day when St Augustine is normally winding down. We do not have the shuttle bus numbers yet — but we will Monday, and we expect them to be strong. Police, fire, and emergency medical rose to the occasion and, supplemented by an army of private security, containment of the crowd did not become an issue. 14 concert-related trips to the hospital have been reported, less than 100 mostly heat-exhaustion related medical incidents were attended according to St Johns County Fire Rescue. Paul Williamson reported 1 concertgoer removed from the event Friday, we are still waiting for a Saturday update. No arrests were reported.
Next week, Historic City News will do a post-mortem of the neighborhoods; the taxpayers who guaranteed the event, financially underwriting part of its cost. We’ll look at the nuisance calls for police services; noise complaints, illegally parked vehicles, trespassing, etc. From what we do know, we would be surprised to learn of major law enforcement problems during the event.
Photo credits: © 2013 Historic City News special event photograph by Nancy Sikes-Kline