Wiederaenders column: Plaza events give up for grass, wrestle for dates

The 20th annual Empty Bowls event, sponsored by the Prescott and Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregations, was scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017. In 2018, it will be held Sunday, Sept. 16. (PNI, file)

The 20th annual Empty Bowls event, sponsored by the Prescott and Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregations, was scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017. In 2018, it will be held Sunday, Sept. 16. (PNI, file)

Like a pre-teenager, the courthouse plaza and Yavapai County are experiencing growing pains.

But instead of muscle and leg cramps, we’re talking about grass and nonprofits.

In December 2016, we told you about how the lawns at the Yavapai County Courthouse plaza flatten and turn brown from thousands of feet, vendor booths, and general use after major events during spring, summer and fall every year.

As a result, the county supervisors decided to limit the days available for use permits between May 1 and Oct. 30 to give the grass time to recover between events. That translated into providing 70 event days in that period each year, a 23 percent decrease (21 days) from 2016’s schedule.

The kinks are being worked out, but it is still a stretch.

This past month, at the Prescott Downtown Partnership offices, which manages the plaza events for the county, it was a scene like music fans standing in line for concert tickets – with event organizers arriving as early as three hours before the doors opened.

The rule of the day for 2018? First come, first scheduled.

Some lucked out, getting the month, day and side of the courthouse they wanted or usually get. That was the case for Empty Bowls, a charitable event that dishes up soup made by some 15 local chefs in bowls crafted by local artists to benefit area food banks.

Not so for some of the charities this year, such as the Woof Down lunch, which benefits the community’s animals in need. They had a June event date in 2017, and got one in August for this year – a time of year not “best” for our furry little friends.

Still, it is not as if they’ve been shut out entirely, right?

Doing the math, 21 fewer event dates – someone must be completely unhappy. An example there is the Dogtoberfest, which couldn’t get a good date and needed more space. The solution was organizers moved the event to Watson Lake in 2017.

Others have seen a change in event date or month hurt their effort. That was the March of Dimes, which was formerly held on the Saturday after Labor Day, actually for 20 years. Organizers said their August 2017 date was not the best – their worst year ever – because of timing (volunteers from schools not available).

This year? They made sure they were up early – and ended up fourth in line at the PDP and received Sept. 22.

It’s not the Saturday after Labor Day, but it is closer.

We sure hope the grass is doing better, Supervisors, and hopefully the nonprofits will survive.

Sadly, it can be something as simple as this that puts a charity back years, rather than seeing continued growth.

The March of Dimes was one such example, and their event does not depend on grass … because they march.

Community Editor Tim Wiederaenders is the senior editor for The Daily Courier and Prescott Newspapers, Inc. Follow him on Twitter @TWieds_editor. Reach him at 928-445-3333, ext. 2032, or twieds@prescottaz.com.