Give Me More Grizzly Fest
Some of you might remember a few months ago, when the lineup for Grizzly Fest was announced, there was a bit of an uproar in the community about the headliners. I hope you can sense the sarcasm through the screen. There were letters to the editor at the Fresno Bee, town hall meetings, and City Council Meetings that included a cringe-worthy rendition of a specific Dr. Dre song from The Chronic. (Does it matter which one? Not really but CLICK HERE. It’s magical.) Anyway, other concerns regarding the relocation of the music festival from Chukchansi Park in Downtown Fresno and its extension from a single-day to a two-day event at Woodward Park were the noise disturbance it would cause to nearby residence, potential vandalism and other criminal activity, and the possibility for further leniency with city ordinances in future for the sake of money. Now, I have my personal beliefs as to why this affluent neighborhood in Fresno did not want an urban music festival to take place in their neck of the woods but I’m not here to talk about that.
The purpose of the letters (Fresno Bee), the town hall meetings (ABC30 Action News), and the City Council meetings is to provide an opportunity for the opinions of those living in this community can be voiced. Everyone does have the right to their own opinion and the right to speak in a – hopefully – mature manner. The issue I have with the arguments made is the dismissal of the long-term financial benefits events like Grizzly Fest bring. An article in the Hollywood Reporter from 2012 says that when the Coachella Music and Arts Festival returned to Indio, California after a two-year hiatus, a staggering $89.2 million dollars was spent by festival attendees resulting in $1.4 million dollars in tax revenue going back into the city. Look, I have never been to Coachella. I don’t know what it’s like but, my gods! Eighty-nine million dollars over a six days sounds like a fantastic return on investment to me for a relatively minor inconvenience. And that’s what Grizzly Fest is: an investment in this community for this community.
One major complaint many from outside of Fresno, including myself when I first came back, is that Fresno lacks any sense of culture aside from our obsession with tacos; that we don’t enjoy music, or art, or a real food scene. Most concerts for major artists happen a few hours drive south or a few hours drive north. The number of museums in operation is low and the hours are not always conducive to exploration unless you needed a permission slip. In comparison to those familiar with Los Angeles and San Francisco, we’re a joke. Yes, we do have remarkably less expensive real estate with respect to both of those metro areas but what the Central Valley does lack are businesses looking to invest in this area. The Bay and LA have enormous industries generating billions of dollars and are offering jobs in those fields that have more enticing paychecks or at least the promise of a fulfilling cultural scene for those fresh out of college and looking to start their careers. At this point in time, Fresno simply does not stand apart from the competition as somewhere people want to work. This could potentially make staffing an issue for companies who would otherwise establish themselves here.
But let’s move on to who is established here and the next benefit on I want to mention: supporting locals. Promoter Aren Hekimian and his team have made it a point every year to include not only local musicians but also small businesses, food vendors, artists, dancers, and DJs as part of the festival. Not only does this provide exposure for these individuals, groups, and businesses to the greater Fresno community but it also allows them to gain exposure on a larger stage. Perhaps one of the other acts that came to perform that has reached a higher level of success catches a performance by a local artist and is thoroughly impressed. Maybe a label rep wants to set up a meeting or a venture capitalist would love to talk about turning a truck into a brick and mortar. There is truly no telling how that could result – we could see their work winning them Grammys, expanding to franchises or restaurants, being featured in galleries, and on and on and on. There are people here that are extremely talented and it’s time we supported them. Who doesn’t want their friends or family members to succeed? Who doesn’t want to teach the next generation that all things are possible no matter where you come from? I know I do.
I want the future of Fresno and the surrounding area to reflect its potential. I do not want the Central Valley to continue to be passed over or entirely dismissed by potential investors because of the reputation it has and continues to perpetuate when individuals or groups of people try to block progress. Now, I’m sure some reading this might think, “Why should we care what outsiders think of Fresno? They don’t live here now.” You’d be right. They don’t live here now. And there are areas of life where I do not believe it is beneficial to care what other people think. Honestly, if pink is your favorite color but your sister says you look God awful in it, who cares? But when it comes to potential investors from outside or even local sources that affects the growth and health of your community – how many jobs it could bring, how much in taxes could be put toward schools or public parks, the potential rise in customers available for small businesses, the rise in property value for those already here, the growth of agritourism, opportunities for local artists – you should care. You really should.
Did you attend Grizzly Fest like I did? What are your thoughts on the event and its effect on the community? Let me know in the comments!