Festival draws a crowd

By most accounts the first ever La Jolla Art and Wine Festival last weekend was a rousing success, returning the community to its artistic roots and introducing out-of-towners to what the Village has to offer.

Festival creator Sherry Ahern said the event more than lived up to her expectations, adding Sunday’s crowd doubled Saturday’s. She acknowledged there were a few glitches and a few things that can be approved upon for next year’s fest.

Merchants were mixed on the impact of the event.

Girard Avenue was abuzz with families with children and people strolling along and stopping to buy or chat with the artists throughout the two-day event. Others enjoyed the food court and the beer and wine tastings.

“We had 1,000 people an hour,” Ahern said. “Most of the artists were happy and most of them are coming back next year. The children’s art center was packed. The entertainment was amazing. We had 300-plus booths.”

The festival was a fundraiser for La Jolla, Bird Rock and Torrey Pines elementary schools. Noting the huge cost of staging a first-time event, Ahern said, “The numbers are coming in right now and we made money.”

One of the glitches involved the farmers’ market that is held each Sunday at La Jolla Elementary School on Girard Avenue, which was closed between Pearl and Genter streets for the new event.

“We definitely have to find a way next year to have the full farmers market and have ingress and egress for it,” Ahern said. “There was some confusion with not everybody knowing it was open.”

She also said improvements are needed in the shuttles, which ran from a UCSD parking lot on Genesee Avenue.

“We need to have better signs for the shuttle service,” she noted. “We also need to have vehicles running every 15 minutes instead of every 30 minutes.”

Some nearby merchants were pleased with the outcome of the art and wine fest, others weren’t.

Bookseller Dennis Wills owner of DG Wills at 7461 Girard Ave. said the event drew fresh faces.

“We saw some new customers that we hadn’t seen before,” he said. “We had artists themselves come in here looking for art books.”

Wills also gave kudos for event cleanup and security, noting that “People were walking around with trash cans and brooms. This morning (Monday) you can’t even tell that an event was here (upper Girard).”

Shannon Turner owner of Girard Avenue Collection antiques at 7505 Girard Ave. said her business had a lot of people both days and their response was positive. “People were out in great spirits and we’d love to see it happen again,” she said.

Syd Ady, office manager at Seaside Home at 7509 Girard Ave., said they had some good traffic from the event, while noting much of it was just people looking, but the furniture store sustained some damage: Ice cream was spilled on a bed.

“But it’s always good to have people in,” she added. “At least people are exposed to the store that were never here before.”

But all merchants didn’t benefit from the festival.

“No one came for haircuts, I had to close,” said Roberta DeNicholas, owner of Ultimo For Hair at 7446 Girard Ave., adding crowds made it nearly impossible for senior clientele to get into her hairdressing salon.

DeNicholas said promises were made to her about how the event would be handled that weren’t kept.

“They promised me no one would park in my backyard,” she said. “Everyone was parking in there.”

The salon owner also wasn’t pleased that admission was charged for the event, or that there was a charge for valet parking that was “way up on top of the hill.”

“I would rather have donated the money,” she concluded. “Let them do it someplace else.”

Janine Ryder, manager of La Jolla Music at 7442 Girard Ave., said the event didn’t help her business out on Saturday at all.

“We were dead,” she said.

Ahern credited her dedicated group of volunteers for working 60 to 80 hours a week to pull the event off.

At the end, she said everyone felt they had really participated in the beginning of something lasting. “We understood we were creating a tradition in our community,” she said. “This thing is here forever. It’s never going anywhere. My goal is to make all of La Jolla a part of it. There’s no reason why this can’t envelope all of our La Jolla community.”