BRADENTON -- The opening of the $6.2 million Riverwalk in 2012 brought a new normal to downtown Bradenton: multiple weekend events and a coordination migraine.
Then six months ago, the Bradenton City Council established the Event Review Committee. Much to the relief of Claude D. Tankersley, public works director, David Gustafson, executive director of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, and Rene Raymond, city events coordinator.
"The number of events here have increased a minimum of 50 percent since Riverwalk opened," Gustafson said. "The events are getting more frequent and more complex."
Each Thursday at 9 a.m., the panel meets in the Public Works Conference Room, 1411 Ninth St. W., to wade through a stack of applications.
Does the event need law enforcement? Are two officers enough? How about four? Eight? Sixteen?
Do event organizers know they are responsible for putting out the barricades that the city delivers to them?
Will power be required? How about garbage cans? Recycling bins? Water?
Is the insurance in order?
Has closing a street been properly requested? Does the police department know about it?
In some cases, the panel can't find all the answers they need in the application, and an event representative will need to attend a meeting to help sort things out.
The panel can ensure that the event is well organized, and that neighboring events
are compatible, Raymond said.
A fee schedule was developed for the use of Riverwalk, based on the size of the event, ranging from $75 to $2,000 a day.
"We really struggled with that. We wanted to encourage people to have their events at Riverwalk. We just wanted to cover our costs," Tankersley said.
Sgt. Curtis Johnson of the Bradenton Police Department appreciates the coordination.
"The nice thing is that we can get things done, and a whole lot faster," Johnson said.
It's like "night and day," Gustafson adds.
Applicants tend to review the additional coordination not so much as an extra layer of red tape, but as a helping hand in putting on a successful event, panel members say -- particularly for groups new to putting on an event.
"We came to the conclusion that we needed a group to help guide our applicants in the process," Gustafson said.
Among events already vetted for this Saturday are the Pittsburgh Pirates Pep Rally with Manager of the Year Clint Hurdle from 5-7:30 p.m., and the Downtown Bradenton Farmers' Market 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., both on Old Main Street, and Southeastern Guide Dogs' Walkathon on Riverwalk at 8:30 a.m.
For more information about the event application process, visit www.cityofbradenton.com. For more about events in Bradenton, visit www.realizebradenton.com.
James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter: @jajones1