Rhythm on the Rock has solid showing

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Shelly Birkelo
Sunday, August 24, 2014

JANESVILLE—An estimated 2,000 people were feeling the Rhythm on the Rock downtown Sunday as they listened, sang, drank and danced to music performed by a dozen bands throughout the day.

Ashton Granger, 10, was working up a sweat dancing in the street with his mom, Shawn Schmitz-Granger, 50, of Edgerton, during the mid-day heat and humidity.

Killer Cars, one of the headliner bands, brought them to downtown Janesville.

“They play music we all like,” Shawn said, also referring to her husband, John Granger, 40, and daughter Shiloh Granger, 9.

Shawn said she loved Sunday's festival.

“It's a mix of age groups—old and young. There's lots of room to dance, and it's outdoors,” she said.

Dolores Edmundson and friend Bob McCutcheon of Janesville came to meet family and friends and wanted to hear music and enjoy a beer.

“I think this is great,” said Edmundson, 79.

“This is where good people get together, and it's something to do instead of sitting and watching TV,” McCutcheon said.

The music festival, which ran from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., also featured food and drinks.

The Janesville Downtown Development Alliance became the first downtown business group to host a festival under the city council's new ordinance that exempts downtown festival organizers from having to use fences to cordon off area events that serve beer, wine and malt beverages.

In June, the council threw out a years-old rule tied to the city's Class B temporary event license ordinance that required 4-foot-tall orange plastic snow fence around areas where alcohol is served at special events.

Barry Badertscher, president of Rhythm on the Rock and vice chairman of the Downtown Development Alliance, said the new ordinance was the difference between the alliance being able to sponsor or not sponsor the event.

He said the problem with organizing the Rock Around the Block music festival that ended in 2012 was trying to get enough people to help put up snow fence that took a lot of time and effort.

The new ordinance, however, “changes that dynamic immensely,” he said.

"It gives us a tremendous ability to do many live events downtown,” Badertscher said.

“The more people we bring downtown, the more money we bring downtown," which means reinvesting proceeds downtown, he said.

On Sunday, the Alliance blocked off part of Main Street and posted banners to indicate designated areas and other big poster board signs to indicate drinking areas and where it was not OK to drink.

People showed their IDs to organizers, an ordinance requirement, as they entered the festival at two check-in points. Those consuming alcohol bought tokens and received wristbands.

The Alliance was strict at validating IDs and making sure nobody was drinking without an ID. If a person did not have a bracelet, he or she was not served.

That's why fencing is not necessary, Badertscher said.

"It's so nice to feel like you're not in a corral," he said.

Festivalgoers moved freely throughout the designated festival area with plastic cups of beer or malt beverages and could buy drinks at a beer tent or taverns within the festival area.

City staff, including the city's alcohol license advisory committee, parks and leisure services division, police and fire departments, approved the festival plans, Badertscher said.

 "We need a successful downtown to have a successful city,” he said. “This (festival) is the smartest, easiest way to show them downtown is a great place to be so they'll want to come back."

Badertscher summed up Sunday's music festival as a "tremendous success."

"We'll be doing another one," he said.

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