VALPARAISO | Central Park Plaza's first full year of operation was a good one with 88 events, but Tina St. Aubin said residents can expect even more things happening at the park this year.
"The park has been a good place for everybody," said St. Aubin, the city's special events director. "Everybody worked so hard to put it together and get it built, and now the city and the (Valparaiso Community Festivals and Events Office) can both enjoy it to its full potential."
Activities that have proven popular downtown even before the park was completed, such as movies, the farmers market, Holly Days and the Popcorn Festival, will be back along with the Brewfest and some new surprises. Also, St. Aubin said she is working on signing performers for a music festival.
"As everything has developed and the year has gone on and everybody has a year under our belts with the park, people are anticipating events," she said. "Now we have the coolest job ever to think of ways for people to have fun.
"We only have a staff of three, and events can be extremely expensive. We rely heavily on sponsorship dollars, and we have to grow smartly. We try to use sponsorship dollars for the events. We use (county economic development income tax) money (from the city) as seed money to get an event started, and then pull it.
"We raise over $100,000 in sponsorship money a year," St. Aubin said. "We have phenomenal sponsors who believe in the events and what they bring to the community. Most of the events are free. We always try to set the bar high, and the challenge is to do it better than we did before."
In addition to the 88 city and VCFE events, other organizations also use the park for events. St. Aubin said it isn't easy deciding what type of events to hold or what groups to invite to perform at the park.
"We wonder whether people will like the stuff we like and whether we bring in the right bands. We have to weigh things like how they will impact the community, the noise levels and the impact on the downtown before we decide what to do. That can take a long time. It's a learning curve.
"Central Park Plaza was meant as a gathering place, and that has been achieved so many times over," St. Aubin said. "The park is the hub."