Some Lodi City Council members spoke against the idea of eliminating vendors from the Fourth of July at the Lake event this year.
City of Lodi staff presented a number of proposals to the council at a Tuesday morning shirtsleeve session aimed at reducing costs for the annual event, including eliminating vendors and charging an entry fee.
Last year’s event cost the city $48,745, and the proposed changes could help save $14,220, according to Jeff Hood, director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services.
Among the suggestions presented Tuesday were eliminating vendors and charging an entry fee.
Hood said there has been a high rate of vendor turnover during the past few years of the event, due to factors such as insurance and labor.
He added that finding vendors to come to the lake has become a challenge for city staff.
“One of the requirements we have for vendors is that they be there before the park opens and (stay until) after the event ends,” he said. “A lot of them just don’t want to stay there very long.”
|Fourth at the Lake costs||2013||2014|
|Fencing, toilets, refuse||$12,250||$5,500|
|Public safety labor||$13,420||$9,400|
|Public Works and Parks labor||$9,000||$7,000|
|Swimming area revenue||($1,500)||$0|
|Entry revenue||N/A||($3,000 expected)|
|Total net cost||$48,745||$34,525|
Jennifer Winn, a recreation manager, said the park opens at 7 a.m. on July 4, and guests will be searched for contraband as they enter. The beach opens at 10 a.m.
While attendance at the event has been close to 1,000 in recent years, Winn told the council Tuesday morning that the bulk of the attendance increases around 5 p.m.
Hood said to have vendors stay some 16 hours while making little money seemed pointless.
He said the 10 vendors at last year’s event made only $800. Vendors last year offered shaved ice, popcorn, tacos, smoothies and beer, as well as bounce houses and laser tag. There were 14 vendors in 2012, Hood said.
Councilwoman JoAnn Mounce said eliminating vendors could bring attendance down. She suggested reducing the number of vendors to three, rather than eliminating them altogether.
“You don’t want vendors there, and you won’t let people bring in food or drink,” she said. “How do you expect people to stay at the park all day?”
Hood clarified guests were allowed to bring in food and beverages for a picnic, just not alcohol.
One option Hood suggested was to have the vendors set up booths in the beach area, which he said staff would explore.
Councilman Alan Nakanishi echoed Mounce’s thoughts.
“It’s a big event,” he said. “To take (vendors) away from (the people), and then for the people who don’t bring food ... I think we need some sort of vendor there, at least for food.”
Mayor Phil Katzakian said he manned a beer booth at the event for Lodi Rotary in years past, and sales were poor.
“Sales were weak,” he said. “There’s nobody there in the afternoon. Nobody really shows up until late, and even then the sales are nil.”
Lodi Police Lt. Dave Griffin agreed, saying most people come to the lake just for the fireworks, and then leave. Fireworks aren’t displayed until 9:30 p.m.
Another change that could affect guests is a proposed entrance fee, which would include beach access.
Currently, admission is $3 for each adult to the beach and $1.50 for children. There is no entry fee to the park itself, except a vehicle entry fee.
An entry fee to Fourth of July at the Lake would be based on the beach admission. However, for that particular day, guests would only have access to the beach and boathouse until 5 p.m., when the rest of the park would open.
Hood said if the city were to charge an entry fee, about $3,000 in revenue would be generated, if the city uses the current beach admission price for adults and around 1,000 people attend the event.
The city has operated Fourth of July at the Lake since 2007, and has not charged an entry fee.
However, the Lodi Rotary Club’s Oooh Aaah Festival at the lake, the event that preceded the city’s, charged $8 for adults from 1993 to 2007. Children ages 5-12 were admitted for $5.
Hood said during that time, the Fourth of July event was very successful in addition to safe.
Prior to 1993, Hood said the park was open to the public like any other day on July 4. But gang-related fights in 1992 prompted changes, including the entry fee, as well as screening guests for contraband by setting up an entry gate.
Griffin said screening guests has turned up contraband such as illegal fireworks and alcohol, as well as skateboards and barbecue grills, which aren’t permitted during normal operating hours.
In addition, Griffin said officers have turned away known gang members wearing gang colors. Documented gang members wearing “plain clothes” have been permitted.
Hood said there has only been one arrest at the event in recent years, and that was a drunk kayaker on the lake.
Mounce asked police chief Mark Helms what the City of Stockton has done in the past with its Fourth of July event.
Helms said Stockton has done everything from closing its park to the public and charging admission, to having a completely open event, or ultimately no event at all due to cost.
“I like the idea of having the park fenced and there’s an entry gate where people are screened,” he said. “If you take the fences down, you might have a good year, but as the years went on, you’d get a different crowd character and a number of issues you probably don’t want to experience.”
Councilman Larry Hansen said he remembered hearing that Lodi Lake was not a family-friendly park anymore. He supported continuing to screen guests.
“I think it’s important people can feel safe going to that event,” he said. “When we first started fencing it, there was a lot of public outcry. But now, it’s very safe and we’ve had little problems.”
While an entry fee and vendor elimination will be considered, other features of the event will remain unchanged.
Turner Road will remain closed July 4 between Ham Lane and Mills Avenue for a farmers market, and the pancake breakfast will still be held from 7 to 11 a.m. The fireworks will still be held from 9:30 to 9:45 p.m.
In addition, the east and north areas of the park will remain closed until 5 p.m.
This will reduce the cost of placing portable toilets and garbage removal, as well as reduce post-event cleanup and police costs, Hood said.
Staff took the council’s feedback and will ask them to approve the proposals at a future meeting.
Contact reporter Wes Bowers at email@example.com.