Brookings Byron Bishop, 11, shares the limelight on stage with mega-country artist Brad Paisley during last weekend’s Cape Blanco Country Music Festival near Port Orford. Photo courtesy of Tammy Ross Photography.
Country music fans weren’t the only ones bearing face-splitting grins last weekend; retailers throughout the north end of the county were smiling, as well.
The throngs of music fans that descended on Sixes for Bi-Mart’s Cape Blanco Country Music Festival arrived in a flurry of excitement and left behind enough money to help retailers break sales records.
“Everything was huge,” said Jed Davis, manager of Ray’s Foods of Port Orford. “We were up most of the week, 30 to 50 percent. Some departments were up 155 percent.”
An estimated 13,000 tickets were sold for the inaugural event, which featured such stars as Brad Paisley, Eric Church, Dierks Bentley and Pam Tillis. BootsNBeach, LLC staged the concert; another one is held in Brownsville, north of Eugene, later this month. The firm is associated with Bi-Mart stores and holds the events in or near towns in which Bi-Mart has stores to boost the local economy.
It’s worked in Brownsville, and it apparently worked in Curry County, as well.
Sales at Ray’s Foods broke the record of $30,000 in one day, set more than 10 years ago, Davis said. During the course of the country festival, they sold $32,000 worth of merchandise one day and $35,000 another.
“People out at the festival were thankful we were here, that we were open, what we had to offer and that they didn’t have to go elsewhere to get it. We were a one-stop shop; that’s what we’re trying to go for, being the only game in town.”
Davis said Ray’s Foods ordered extra supplies in anticipation of the crowds, moved a prepared-hot-food stand and produce tent closer to the road and only ran out of sweatshirts, T-shirts and ball caps.
They saw huge sales in the hardware and general merchandise — particularly camping and fishing supplies, water and ice — and in the bakery and deli. A fire ban that went into place right before the festival, however, brought firewood sales to a virtual halt.
“We didn’t run out of anything,” Davis said with a laugh. “It doesn’t look like the Apocalypse, or like Hurricane Katrina blew through here.”
And everything went smoothly, as well, he said.
“Everyone stepped up to the plate and did what needed to get done,” Davis said of his staff. “They thrive under pressure. It’s amazing. You can see the black-and-white difference. When it’s slow, they’re all, ‘What do we do? What do we do?’ And on busy days, it just kicks in and comes together.”
Monday, he and his crew were comparing notes and analyzing how they can improve for next year. One amenity the store will offer vendors is the opportunity to pre-order their food and supplies — and even have them delivered to the venue.
For Sheriff John Bishop, the weekend couldn’t have gone better.
“We arrested eight people out of the whole weekend,” he said. “And two of them were double-arrests. Two guys were arrested Friday, bailed out Saturday, came back Saturday night and were rearrested that night. You have more arrests and alcohol issues at a Beavers or Ducks game — and that’s in a four-hour period. It was a good time.”
All the hours worked by the sheriff’s deputies garnered them overtime pay, but that and benefits the county usually must pay — federal taxes, Social Security and PERS — was paid for by the concert promoters.
He said he was unaware of any DUII arrests, and there were no issues on Highway 101.
“Everyone really behaved themselves,” he said. “Even the medics were bored.”
It’s too early to tabulate how much revenue was brought to Port Orford, as there is no sales tax revenue by which to calculate it.
But the Brownsville concerts attract about 13,000 festivalgoers each summer — and with it about $3 million to the area.
The Cape Blanco venue, for which the company has signed a five-year agreement, can fit 20,000 people in two fields near Sixes.
The hundreds of volunteers who worked security, tickets, set-up, food and beverage sales, parking and trash pick-up, among other duties, will all receive payment from the producer for their involvement. Those amounts have yet to be determined, as this was the first year for the Cape Blanco event.
In Brownsville, the festival helped local fire departments, high school booster clubs and athletic programs raise more than $250,000. Last year, the event garnered $3 million for the city, including $75,000 for the schools and $27,000 for the fire departments that held pancake breakfasts.
But for Alice Farmer, who oversaw the operation of 11 groups conducting trash pickup for the Brookings-Harbor Booster Club, the experience wasn’t just about the money.
“It was phenomenal,” she said. “It was basic farmland turned into a community overnight, and we were in charge of every piece of trash. They said the executive staff was thoroughly amazed with the work we did. The property owner toured the (area) and was astounded by how the grounds looked.”
The trash-pickup crews, comprised of 217 youth and their parents, worked around the clock and contributed to the 25 commercial-sized Dumpsters filled during the festival.
Farmer said those involved have a new appreciation of those who pick up litter, such as the Trash Dogs, a volunteer group that finds and removes trash dumped on Forest Service lands.
“As you can imagine, 15,000 people getting up, walking away, and all the trash is on the ground,” Farmer said “We had to literally pick it up, bag it, load it, dump it and do it over and over and over. If I never see a trash bag or gloves again. ...
“From my perspective, it was an outstanding opportunity to have kids and parents involved in the process of planning and behind the scenes production,” she added. “Everybody did their job. I really must credit the group leaders, students and parents; without each one being willing to step up we can’t do these types of things.”
The repercussions were still being felt Monday.
“We put on some extra staff to take any overflow camping, but we didn’t see much,” said Ben Fisher, park manager at Bullards Beach State Park north of Bandon. “The biggest thing we’re seeing is all the folks who camped with RVs. They need a place to dump. We’ve had about 100 extra.”
Humbug State Park, just north of Gold Beach, and Cape Blanco State Park — front and center of the onslaught — weren’t affected much, either, said Shirley Stentz, park manager for both. Humbug campsites are reservation-only and usually filled up this time of year, and Cape Blanco is first-come, first-served, and didn’t fill up until a day before the weekend.
“Some people were not even aware of the festival,” she said. “But I hope they’ll come back and explore, find time to go through the Hughes House Museum, the Cape Blanco lighthouse, come into Port Orford and visit some of the shops, go to the Coast Guard life-saving museum, and take in the magnificent viewpoints from our trails and headlands.”
Next year’s festival is slated for July 31 to Aug. 2 and stars already lined up include Blake Shelton and the Florida Georgia Line. Tickets are available at www.cbcmf.com or by calling 541-345-9263.