William Glenn set up his lawn chair at the entrance of Kit Carson Park at 5:30 a.m. Thursday (June 6), earning him the first spot in what was to become a nearly half-mile-long line of concert-goers 14 hours later.
Glenn, 30, is from Durango, Colo., and came to Taos for the first time with his wife to see Mumford and Sons. They stayed two nights, visited Taos Pueblo, did some shopping, ate out and left Friday.
The Colorado couple is exactly the kind of visitor local businesses were hoping the concert would attract. And while good word of mouth from last week’s show may bring the Glenns or their friends back for future visits, the influx of 8,000 ticket holders didn’t live up to many businesses’ high expectations of banner sales right before and after the show.
“There was such a huge hype,” said Libby Macalister, owner of FX-18 on Bent Street. While her sales were disappointingly ordinary, Macalister said she enjoyed seeing the hoard of people waiting for the show or milling in the streets.
Kara Williams, who owns Taos Mountain Outfitters and The Good Sole, said both shops did well last week and saw a mix of locals and visitors. Other retailers said the threat of traffic and crowds kept many locals away and actually hurt their business.
Nearly all of the hotels contacted by The Taos News told the same story in the wake of the concert: We were booked full Thursday, but were back to normal by Friday. Many restaurants had the opposite experience: Thursday was slow, but Friday was slamming.
“We were overstaffed and really excited for Thursday and it just didn’t happen,” said Addie Dore, a manager at Dragonfly Café and Bakery. “But the next morning, we weren’t prepared for the crowd. It was a lot of running around, but we were happily surprised.”
Judging by traffic and pedestrians on the streets, the wave of people seemed to hit late Thursday afternoon with the flood subsiding as people trickled out of town Friday. Late night Thursday was a peak time for bars, especially those closest to the concert venue.
Rachele Griego, owner of El Camino Cantina, said the bar was at capacity Thursday night. “We would love to see big acts like Mumford and Sons come through more often,” Griego wrote in an email. “It was a huge boost to our business and surely a boost to the local economy.”
Still, not all eateries and bars saw a bump in sales. Sara Draim, manager at Lambert’s said the only time they got really busy was when people ducked in during a brief thunderstorm Thursday evening.
And Tammy Hashey, manager at Graham’s Grille, said the restaurant lost thousands of dollars when anticipated crowds never materialized. Hashey said Graham’s set up stands outside to sell burgers and drinks, and brought on extra staff early.
Of the 100 cases of water the restaurant bought, they only sold three, Hashey said. She said the restaurant had been told the line of people waiting to go into the park would snake through the historic district and past the restaurant. Instead, the line stayed across the street from Graham’s. To make matters worse, the restaurant and a few nearby businesses around the Plaza lost power for an hour-and-a-half right at the start of the dinner rush.
“It was a complete money loser,” Hashey said. “We’re not interested in doing something like this again.”
With all the buildup to the concert, entrepreneurs of every type tried to get in on the action, and with mixed success. Hawkers peddling parking spaces were ubiquitous in the historic district Thursday, though there appeared to be little logic in how spaces were priced. The church adjacent to the concert venue was selling spots for $20, while businesses on the other side of the plaza were initially asking $40.
In the weeks before the show, town officials and the Taos County Chamber of Commerce went to great lengths to get food vendors and musicians in the streets starting midday Thursday. A handful of retailers paid $500 a piece for booth space on Civic Plaza Drive, which was closed to traffic to accommodate a street festival.
While the Taos Mesa Brewery’s beer garden had a steady crowd most of the day, other vendors said sales hardly justified the fee they paid for the booth. Matt Thomas, owner of Matt’s Gluten Free, shared a booth with four other people and said he didn’t do as well as he’d expected.
“It was fun to be downtown in all the excitement, but there was a moment when I was like, ‘When is this going to happen?’” Thomas said he packed up his baked goods early and headed off to join the party at the park.
Brad Malone, president of the Taos County Chamber of Commerce, said there were some lessons learned. Malone said the timing of the street fair wasn’t ideal, and things should have opened later and stayed open longer to accommodate the timing of the crowd.
Malone said vendors who stuck around later managed to sell out. Malone said the chamber counted more than 3,000 people wandering through Civic Plaza Drive during the afternoon and evening.
Malone said he hoped the event would benefit Taos in the long run and set a precedent for future concerts and festivals.
“I think we were really able to show that Taos is fully capable of hosting this type of event,” Malone said. “Overall, I think the visitors that came were blown away by the fact that the town opened its arms to them.”