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Boulevard Write-Up

BOULEVARD TEAM MEETING

DATE: 10/30/2014
ATTENDEES: Noel Spain, Lora Salley, Erik Christensen, Rachel Bickel, Chris Elmore

TOPIC

Boulevard Evaluation: Shall We Continue?

The Boulevard Team met to discuss the question:

Should we continue to sponsor The Boulevard music festival and our partnership with Star Events?

This past year’s event marks the 5th anniversary of our involvement with The Boulevard, and a fitting time to make an assessment of the event and our sponsorship of it.

The original intent of The Boulevard was primarily to generate revenue for St. Luke’s. Secondarily, but not unimportantly, we sponsored the event to promote St. Luke’s and our values.

Have we achieved these goals?

  • Revenue generation: The event, per Star Events, has not made a profit in its five year history. This is especially disappointing in light of the apparent success of the last two years. Our current arrangement with Star Events is that we do not shoulder any financial risk associated with the event and in exchange we get 20% of any profits as reported by Star Events (Half of which we share with our partners LSNA and ALSO for their participation). While this arrangement is very accommodating in that we would not have been able to participate at all without Star Events shouldering the risk, we also realize that it appears very unlikely we will receive much, if any, revenue unless we were in a position to take on more of the financial risk. Furthermore, it is unlikely that we would be able to do that at any time since the event budget is 200k and a rained out weekend could yield losses up to 100k. In short, it equates to a high stakes gamble.

Based on this, we have shifted our assumptions and expectations for The Boulevard away from being a fundraiser and towards a method of outreach.

  • Promoting St. Luke’s: The Boulevard has been a tool for promoting St. Luke’s. It has allowed us to take on a higher profile within the neighborhood and provided a more public platform to showcase who we are and our values. Some examples of how we have used this public platform have been:
    • Managing a St. Luke’s booth with materials and people to interface with the crowd.
    • High impact social justice issue promotion such as the “Logan Square Supports Marriage Equality” banner.
    • Outdoor worship service.
    • Partnering with peer organizations such as ALSO, LSNA, and Center for Changing Lives and providing them stage and booth time to promote common social justice issues.
    • Providing an outlet for local music acts such as Logan Chamber Players and Las Bompleneras.

What costs are associated with being the sponsor of The Boulevard?

  • St. Luke’s resource issues. Providing for the partnership and programming (such as described above) takes a fairly sizable effort to do well.
  • Reputational Risk:
    • We’ve had a difficult relationship with the Chamber of Commerce with regard to accommodating the festival on Sundays during the Farmers’ Market. This year this issue blew up in a lengthy email back/forth with the alderman’s office.
    • Increased amount of vocal concern from residents along the boulevard.
      • Concerned about grass; will it be restored?
      • Concerned about noise? Does this need to be a 3 day event? On Sundays, even though the event closes at 9, the take down is loud and lasts until 3am.
      • At the event: ambulance called, people passed out in the lawns, urinating in the lawns.
      • Why isn’t there a petition to sign to approve like in year’s past – will ask the alderman.
      • Neighbor showing displeasure by blasting train horn.
    • Alderman’s office. This was our first year working with Ald. Scott Waugespack’s office. Our first impression was that they were receiving complaints towards St. Luke’s & the event from neighbors and the Chamber of Commerce.

Other Concerns:

Our relationship with our event producer, Star Events, is tepid. They can be given credit for managing the operational tasks of a festival quite well (we never needed to worry about fencing or porta-potties, etc…), and it can be argued that they have been generous in their assuming full financial risk of the event and letting us net revenue from booth sales and the water booth. However, they scored poorly when it came to customer service. They have not been responsive to collaboration. They haven’t provided the financial statements. We feel “tolerated” as they need a non-profit sponsor. They sought the minimum level of interaction with us as it just wasn’t valued. With tin reading friction with the neighborhood and the spectre of an expanded festival footprint all the way to California Ave., it would be critical to have a strong partnership with Star Events to coordinate our response to neighborhood concerns and direct financial resources towards solving problems.

The Boulevard Team then asked: Is there a way to promote ourselves such that l we could realize many of the things we were doing well with the event, without many of the downsides noted above?

The answer was Yes. We can still run a booth at a festival (for example, at the Milwaukee Ave Arts Fest). We can still have an outdoor worship service. We already are doing lots of visible social justice community work with the Ecumenical Alliance. Yes, other efforts may not be as high profile, but we noted we didn’t have any noticeable increase in people walking in the front door because of the event (we did have two new members that credited The Boulevard – we are thankful for them).

So what should we do? Ulimately, we decided it makes more sense to discontinue our relationship with The Boulevard and Star Events. We can do much of the positive promotional work we have been doing without the steep resource cost and reputational risk.

So was this past 5 years of involvement a mistake? Absolutely not. During that time we learned many new skills and built up many relationships. Specifically, we learned how operate in a public space; how to promote our values, engage partners, worship in a new context, and engage the community, all outside the walls of St. Luke’s.

In summary: As has been communicated – we are at a crossroads at St. Luke’s and the breadth of that spans many dimensions.  The Boulevard is part of that transition. The Boulevard Committee feels it’s a fitting time to move on – and channel our energies in new directions.

Submitted by,

Noel Spain, Pastor Erik Christensen, Lora Salley, Chris Elmore, Rachel Bickel

And special thanks to others that have helped plan: Joe Scarry, Lisa Adams, Laura Leon, Art Franke, Brooke Peterson, ALSO, and LSNA.

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Comments (1)

  1. Cynthia Stengel

    Reply

    Boulevard Team:

    Thanks for sharing your evaluation and decision. This venture closely reflects the
    character of St. Luke’s: willing to take risks, learning along the way, reaching out to the community, involving members and friends, and full of hope. I think everyone involved in planning and executing the event learned and grew. Likewise, the discernment involved in deciding to end our sponsorship of this event also reflects the character and values of our congregation. We might at some point consider an ad or flyer thanking those who supported the festival and acknowledging those who were inconvenienced.

    You have developed a clear-eyed evaluation and a sound long-term decision. Given our crossroads situation, it is wise to free our energies and creative thinking toward the new opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

    Well done, good and faithful servants. Blessings on your work.

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