Lest Cantonites have misgivings over WTMD’s decision to move their popular First Thursdays concert series to Canton Waterfront Park, Steve Yasko, general manager of the Towson University-owned station, had some reassuring words: “This is not a ‘kegs and eggs’ radio station,” he said. “This is a ‘chardonnay and quail eggs’ kind of station.” Yasko explained WTMD’s plans at last Tuesday’s Canton Community Association meeting.
First Thursdays, which has been held in Mt. Vernon for the past 10 years, would be held on the waterfront, just south of Boston St. between S. Clinton St. and S. East Ave. The concerts—held on the first Thursdays of the month from May through September—begin at about 7 p.m. and run until about 10 p.m.
Yasko made sure to cover those hot-button issues especially relevant to Canton.
“I have never gotten a call about public urination after the event,” he said, adding that in 10 years, there have been no fights or arrests either.
“This is a family-friendly, community building event, and I think it really works well for us,” Yasko said.
A 2010 survey asserts that 34 percent of First Thursdays attendees are between 24 and 34; 19 percent are between 35 and 44; and 20 percent are between 45 and 54.
At the event’s Mt. Vernon location, attendance ranged between 2,000 and 5,000 per show, according to a handout distributed by Yasko.
Moving on to the subject of parking, Yasko said that Canton Office Properties Trust would be offering 500 spaces for a small fee. Wells Obrecht would offer 500 spaces behind the Brewers Hill shopping center for no fee. Yasko added that he was in negotiations with Canton Crossing for a no-tow policy in a certain area.
There is also street parking, but Yasko said that motorists would be strongly encouraged to park south of Boston St. WTMD’s handout promised an “aggressive communications effort” to keep drivers south of Boston St., using “maps, incentives and other promotions.”
The radio station is also hoping attendees will use the Baltimore Water Taxi, which currently runs until 11 p.m. on show nights. Biking and walking will be encouraged as well, Yasko said, noting that about half of Mt. Vernon attendees had walked.
WTMD had looked into having Charm City Circulator service extended to serve First Thursdays, but “it’s just too expensive,” Yasko said.
“We’re already tripling our costs from Mt. Vernon to come down here.”
Maryland Transit Authority Bus 11 does service Canton Waterfront Park, and the radio station will promote it, he said.
First Thursdays features three concerts on a given night, ranging from national acts to local bands.
The Brewer’s Art is the official beer vendor. Concert goers may bring their own food and non-alcoholic drinks, Yasko said.
“We owe it to Brewer’s Art to discourage that,” he said.
According to Yasko, First Thursdays will likely have a positive effect on Canton’s businesses. According to WTMD’s survey, 51 percent of concert-goers went out to dinner before or after the show; 20 percent went out for drinks; and 18 percent shopped in Mt. Vernon stores.
Security for the event, Yasko said, would be Baltimore City police officers, likely six officers and a sergeant.
“That’s kind of where the cost tripled, but that’s okay,” Yasko said. “Civil servants should have every opportunity.”
A resident asked how long First Thursdays would stay in Canton. Yasko said that the renovations of West Mt. Vernon Park could take two or three years.
“We’re hoping by then that you love us and don’t want us to leave,” he told the Canton audience.
First Thursdays is produced in partnership with the Department of Recreation and Parks, and, should the move win approval, the Canton Community Association.
According to Yasko, the proposed move has the support of City Councilman Jim Kraft, Liquor Board Chair Stephan Fogleman (who lives in the area), and the Canton Community Association.
CCA President Sean Flanagan said that when Yasko first approached him and members of the CCA Board with the idea, “there was some healthy skepticism on my part.”
However, Flanagan said, he has been impressed by Yasko’s “responsiveness and honesty.”
The proposed move is in the initial stages of the application and review proscess.
by Erik Zygmont