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Published: Thursday, 6/24/2010

Revisiting the rally

After a two-year hiatus, Rally by the River has made a triumphant return to Promenade Park - sort of. Turnout for the first rally a week ago was sparse, compared to what it used to be back in the day.

But the thin crowd last Friday night should have been predictable to the private Toledo concert promoter running the show.

That Michael Scott, for all his hard work and good intentions, was stumped about why more people didn't attend suggests he may misunderstand the market. In a word, price kept folks away. Tickets at the gate sold for $25. That's too rich to attract a mass local audience for a Friday night concert series that used to be free.

When the no-longer-functioning CitiFest Inc. ran the event as a taxpayer-funded nonprofit, the riverfront was packed for the rallies. But with the program now privately funded, folks have to pay to party by the river.

If individual investors such as Mr. Scott are to break even, they need to charge concert-goers something for the entertainment provided. But the downtown Toledo venue is not the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, where patrons are willing to bankroll big national artists with pricey tickets.

The cost for rally tickets may be a bargain for the fare delivered, as Mr. Scott insists. However, many who would enjoy coming downtown for a fun evening of music can't afford it. Booking bands that could lower the cover charge might raise attendance to standing room only.

And that would be a promoter's dream, happily fulfilled by an audience eager to make concert performances along the river as popular as they once were when turnout was never a problem.

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