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Rochesterfest organizers pleased with turnout

Jonah and the Whales took center stage at the Rochesterfest Street Dance Saturday evening June 23, 2012 in downtown Rochester, Minn.

Here are a few takeaways from the recently completed Rochesterfest: The first-ever Karaoke Night was a hit, Country Music Night survived a switch to a different day, and the variable of weather, in the end, balanced out.

"We've certainly been very pleased," said Carole Brown, Rochesterfest's executive director. "We had one night wiped out, but other than that, the crowds were really, really strong."

That one night was Wednesday, when thunderstorms forced the premature end of Family Fun Nite. But that was balanced out by the unexpected success of Karaoke Night on Thursday, where twice as many people signed up to sing than there were slots available.

"That was a wonderful surprise," Brown said.

Coming up with a total attendance figure, however, is little more than guesswork, given that tickets aren't sold and nobody counts at the gates. So, organizers start with a gross figure of 150,000 people based on previous years' estimates and then add or subtract based on variables of weather and other factors.


One reason Brown believes attendance was at least 150,000, if not higher, is that there were nine more events this year than last, including a Segway Tours event and a parent-child golf tournament.

There were also unanticipated surprises. At Rochester has Talent, one highlight was a 9-year-old Russian girl who entranced the audience with her virtuoso violin-playing.

According to police estimates, the Rochesterfest parade drew about 25,000 people, Brown said. And except for a few complaints of public drunkenness, the fest was untroubled by any nuisance crimes or boorish behavior, officials say.

Officials also juggled this year's schedule by moving Country Music Night from Thursday to Friday to make room for karaoke. That allowed the country event to benefit from the large crowd that showed up for the parade prior to the concert.

Brown said Rochesterfest continues to have a bright future.

Noting that Rochesterfest and Thursdays on First overlapped, she said, "I think we have our own niche. And we will be talking about how do we strengthen that niche."

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