ROCKVILLE – The Hometown Holidays festival is more condensed now than in the past.
The city no longer hosts the large concerts like a decade ago because the development that sprang up in recent years absorbed the space needed for an event of that scale, according to city officials.
Tim Chesnutt, director of Rockville Parks and Recreation Department, said the city will not be able to host another performance with matching what the festival in 2005 drew when Hootie and the Blowfish headlined.
Chestnutt and city special events manager Colleen McQuitty, attendance this weekend totaled about 60,000 people, roughly in line with its 2015 attendance.
That’s down from about 70,000 attendees 11 years ago, according to McQuitty.
Sunday rain kept some festival goers away though the sun shined on festival attendees throughout Saturday and Monday.
“The number one reason we don’t put entertainment dollars into one big band is we don’t have the type of venue to accommodate one big show,” said Chesnutt.
McQuitty acknowledged the City hosted better-known bands which drew large crowds when there was space. The spaces have since been occupied by Rockville Town Center, and, more recently, the Cambria Hotel and Upton apartments.
“We would have national acts come out through the years, when we had the one stage,” said McQuitty.
McQuitty said money affected decisions on which bands to invite to perform on the four stages in the downtown area this year, but that national band and up-and -coming bands from the east coast were included in the schedule.
“We utilized the money we had,” said McQuitty.
She added that the department had “a little less money” available to spend on entertainment.
Staff instead decided to spend it on multiple acts rather than one act to perform one night of the weekend.
Multiple acts on separate stages filled the Hometown Holidays schedule for as many as nine years, ever since the construction of the Town Center.
Chesnutt said the city could have paid for a single, more expensive act but that to do so would require special measures to limit a number of people attending the event.
“Could we spend $100,000 on a band, and limit the number of people who could see them? Absolutely, but I don’t think that limiting the number of people who can see the show is what either the citizens or the mayor or the Council want us to do,” Chesnutt said.
That $100,000 figure is how much the city paid to book Hootie and the Blowfish in 2005.
Chestnutt added the space for a main stage performance now could accommodate about 500 people at the most. The City would probably need to put up fences and security measures to make sure only a certain number of people entered the concert space.
Special event management this year reduced funding for entertainment this year by $2,700 for a total of $60,000.
That level is $40,000 less than the cost of the Hootie and the Blowfish concert the city held 11 years ago.
McQuitty, said Rockville continued to erect four miniature stages this year rather than one large one as it did in 2005 and the years prior to make the best use of the medium open spaces it has.
Rockville City Police Chief Terry Treschuk said the special event managers and police had to be more creative in planning where the stages and restaurant venues would go because there were restrictions on which roads they could close for the three-day event.
Some roads had to remain open to allow access to the Cambria hotel that opened May 2015.
Rockville resident Phyllis Taylor said she didn’t think attendance lowered because of development, though the addition of Cambria Hotel and Upton Apartments now take up much of the space that used to be available for the event.
“I think Hometown Holidays is a centralizing force for the community,” said Taylor.
She and her husband have attended Hometown Holidays many times since the early years of the event.
Treschuk said the largest space the city ever had for Hometown Holidays was in the early 1990s right after the Rockville Mall was torn down.
Treschuck said he has attended every Hometown Holidays since it started in 1989.
“I haven’t missed one in 28 years,” said Treschuk. “It’s my job.”
Despite the change in the arrangement of concerts, Treschuk said he continues to enjoy Hometown Holidays and its success in the community.
If the city were to have a concert like the Hootie and the Blowfish concert again, Treschuk said the police department would be able to handle the crowds, just as it did in 2005.
However, he added the four bandstands rather than one has been easier for the police to manage.