Rock Around the Block turns corner

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011
— After seven years, Rock Around the Block is rockin’.

This year’s event Aug. 28 saw its largest crowds and biggest profit in seven years.

Organizers estimate a profit of about $2,000, which they will bank as a hedge against bad weather at a future event.

One of the organizers, Fred Gray, said people in the community have asked where the money goes and have complained that the event only benefits downtown bars.

Gray said the downtown bars contribute money so the event can be held.

Below are some answers to questions posed to Gray and this year’s chairman, Matt Schreier.

Q: Who is in charge of Rock Around the Block?
A: Rock Around the Block is a non-profit corporation managed by Gray, Bruce Monson and Mike Faust. The event is run by volunteers.
Q: Why was it formed?
A: Rock Around the Block is held on Main Street downtown and evolved from a former downtown event, Rendezvous on the River.

Organizers hope the event unites the community and gives people a low-cost entertainment option.

“We looked at trying to showcase Janesville to Janesville,” Gray said. “How many times do you hear, ‘There’s nothing to do in town?’

“There’s so much within our community. We kind of have an identity crisis.”

Q: How long as the event been around?
A: This year was its seventh. Gray estimates that about 4,000 people attended the first. This year, about 10,000 people might have been on the street at any given time, and organizers peg attendance at 15,000 plus.

In the past, large pockets of people had formed on the street by 2 p.m. This year, it was full from end to end, Gray said.

Q: Has there ever been any trouble at the event?
A: No.
Q: Does it make money?
A: The event lost money the first five years and could continue only because Gray donated the beer, Schreier said. Gray, who owns Gray Brewing, sells the beer at a “deeply, deeply discounted rate,” depending on how much money the event raises, Schreier said. “It’s a donation in kind, of sorts,” he said.

This year, Gray donated the use of two beer carts and paid four employees to work the day. They were on the street with him until midnight cleaning.

Schreier said costs to stage the event range between $35,000 to $50,000.

“If it weren’t for the money the bars put up—in excess of $2,000 apiece—there’d be no event,” Schreier said. “The bars shoulder a huge amount.”

The group makes money from beverage and food sales.

“The bottom line is, this ($2,000 profit) is a dent in the bucket from what we need each year,” Schreier said.

If the weather were bad, the event would take a bath.

The group plans to begin organizing for next year’s event earlier in hopes of attracting corporate sponsors.

Q: Where does the money go?
A: The mission is to keep the event going. Organizers need money to book bands and run ads, pay city fees and buy insurance. The group needs money in the bank to protect against bad weather.
Q: Are there future goals?
A: Gray would like more community groups to get involved. The Janesville Jets this year ran the youth area, and players interacted with the kids. Firefighters brought their equipment. Other groups sold food to raise money for their organizations.

The Janesville Wrestling Alliance attracted a crowd.

“There wasn’t anybody who didn’t have a smile on their face,” Gray said.

He remembered thinking: “There we go. This isn’t a music festival, this isn’t a bar festival. It’s a community festival.”

Said Schreier: “The event isn’t about any one entity or a set of entities.

“It’s about the city coming together, the optimism we need to foster to turn things around in a more positive way.”

Last updated: 6:24 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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