"I love it," said Kesha Rutledge Soto. "I love being outside and walking back and forth, checking out the different stages."
Each summer the festival takes over Rochester's East End, closing off access for three Friday nights in June, July and August. "The idea has always been to bring attention and economic development to the East End neighborhood, and I think we've been successful, or part of that success, in the big picture over the 22 years that we've existed," said Festival organizer John Hutchings.
Some feel the East End, with new housing and businesses, has outgrown the festival, which attracts 10,000 people on a given Friday. "It's really a virbrant neighborhood so, yeah, the dynamics have changed and we need to address that going forward," said Hutchings.
John Bernunzio opened Bernunzio Uptown Music on East Avenue six years ago. He doesn't want the festival to go away. "I think it's a good part of the city, it gives benefit to the city, it's done great things, but it has to change, it has to evolve," he said.
Organizers are open to change. Anticipating rain for this year's finale and smaller crowds as a result, they reduced the size of the festival's footprint, moved some entertainment inside and kept roads open to traffic. Hutchings believes there is room for compromise and a future for the East End Festival. "I think that the final product that we can arrive at in the offseason, over the winter, I think it's going to please a majority of the parties and I'm optimistic that we're going to go forward, so I feel really good," he said.
Asked if she would give a changed festival a chance, Rutledge Soto said, "I'd probably still come out, I'd come out for the main stage, I'd do a little indoors, at least give it a shot, see if I like it."
The City of Rochester issues permits for the East End Festival each year. Representatives are working with organizers and community members to seek a positive resolution and find a way to keep the festival going that is satisfactory for everyone.