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‘Island Nights’ might be a thing in Minocqua

December 06, 2019 by Brian Jopek

The Minocqua Town Board on Tuesday agreed to the concept for an expansion of the “Party In The Park” concerts that have been running each Sunday during the summer in Torpy Park. 

Minocqua Brewing Company (MBC) owner and Minocqua Island Business Association (MIBA) vice-president Kirk Bangstad made a presentation to the town board, stressing the concept is literally in the idea stage, the Sunday “Party In The Park” concerts would continue as they have and before he went to the Minocqua Island Business Association (MIBA) with the idea, he wanted to get backing from the town. 

With Bangstad at Tuesday’s meeting was Dave Keating, MBC’s director of operations.

“Apparently, there’s a precedent that’s been set that ... when a bigger thing is going to happen, it’s wise to kind of talk to the town board about it and get approval to do that kind of thing,” he said. “That’s kind of the basis for why I’m here.”

What Bangstad and Keating were plugging is something called “Island Nights,” a collaboration, like the “Party In The Park” series, Bangstad said would be between the MIBA and the Minocqua Brewing Company. 

Referring to handout prepared for the town board, he summarized first some of what’s been done historically over the four years of the “Party In The Park” concerts: 10 free Sunday afternoon events with up to 400 people in attendance; they’re designed, organized and managed by staff at the MBC and food and beverages are provided by MBC. 

Staffing of food and beverage booths is made up of volunteers from different non-profit groups in the area.

“It’s been very successful,” Bangstad said of the “Party In The Park” program. “It gives a lot of money back to non-profits that work the events.”

He said the intent is call the expansion of the “Party In The Park” series “Party In The Park: Island Nights.”

“It would be on a Sunday and the reason to do that is to bring foot traffic to downtown Minocqua,” Bangstad said. “On a day that’s not so good for businesses in the summertime.”

While the “Party In The Park” features lesser known bands, he said “Island Nights” would feature “rockin’, awesome bands.”

“On a Thursday or potentially Saturdays in th summer,” Bangstad said. “We have to work that out, what those days are based on the bands that we hire and when they’re free. We don’t have any real plans yet other than a concept of what we wanna do.”

And “what we wanna do” with “Island Nights” was outlined in the handout given to town board members:

• Increase hotel occupancy and rates from individuals attending the shows.

• Increase sales at downtown retail outlets and restaurants the entire weekend of shows. 

• Press and media leading up to concerts will be “free advertising” for Minocqua resulting in exposure to thousands of potential tourists.

• Large concerts such as those proposed for “Island Nights” that could possibly include bands such as The BoDeans, Cracker, Rusted Root, The Verve Pipe and The Wailers “will increase the esteem and prestige of Minocqua as the cultural center of the Northwoods.”

“Bands such as these are more expensive and can’t be provided as free concerts,” the handout reads. Funding for the event would come from ticket sales — prices would range from $20 to $30 depending on the band — and any secondary funding through private sponsorships.

The tickets would be sold on the website eventbrite.com with 100% of the revenue generated from ticket sales going toward the band, ticket marketing and event insurance. 

Bangstad said there would be no revenue going to MBC or any other for profit group or organization. 

Fifty tickets would be donated to local charitable organizations that could be auctioned or raffled off, that ticket revenue going to those non-profits. 

The concept calls for three to five concert events, tentatively four Thursdays and one Saturday between June and September. 

The anticipated number of concert goers would increase to up to 700 people and the events would be staffed by contract and MBC employees. 

Temporary fencing would be required around most of Torpy Park for 12 to 18 hours, a number that didn’t sit well with town supervisor John Thompson, who, expressing concern about park access for other people, indicated he’d like to see that fence be up no more than 12 hours.

Town board receptive 

There are a number of other details Bangstad and Keating would have to get worked out — possibly setting up a shuttle service like what’s done for Beef-A-Rama to address downtown parking issues the anticipated number of people would bring would be one — but Bangstad said again, before many of those details were worked on, there was no interest in pursuing the idea if the town wasn’t onboard to Torpy Park’s use for “Island Nights.”

Overall, the town board seemed receptive to the idea, but there were concerns expressed. 

Town chairman Mark Hartzheim said the initial reaction he and town clerk Roben Haggart had when first approached was the time frame being sought was in the downtown’s “busy summer weeks.”

“Trying to mesh that (the events) with the availability of the park is the tricky part, I guess,” he said. 

There was nearly 30 more minutes of discussion on “Island Nights,” the consensus of the town board being initially, there be two concert events for 2020 to see how everything plays out. 

The town board also reached a consensus that none of the concerts be scheduled for the month of July. 

Early June was one time frame suggested and as it turns out, Keating said The BoDeans are actually available June 6.

The town board also wanted more information on Torpy Park’s capacity with the anticipated increase in concert goers and to make sure the MIBA was fully onboard with the project as well. 

Bangstad said MIBA approval would be needed to be able to obtain a non-profit picnic license to sell alcohol.

He also didn’t indicate disagreement with any of what the town board laid out as far as feedback and as far as going with one or two shows the first year, he said Keating was certain five of the concerts could be pulled off. 

“It might be a way to kind of dip our toes into it to do a few less events,” Bangstad said. “I said three to five in the presentation, but to see what the reaction is with residents who don’t get to use the park on that day.”

Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected]


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