Niagara Gazette


July 11, 2013

Staging a comeback -- George Osborne brings new ideas, and free concerts, to Artpark

George Osborne brings new ideas -- and free concerts -- to Artpark


Niagara Gazette — Osborne, along with Artpark’s accountant Daniel Cantara (who currently serves as senior executive vice president at First Niagara), pored over the books in an effort to get Artpark on solid financial ground.

Osborne trimmed the fat and made some tough decisions to keep the park afloat, all the while looking toward the future and opportunities to expand the use of the facility. One model was to use free events to attract people.

“It started very small, but they were very popular. The first two years we did shows on the theatre plaza with a tiny stage and local bands. Each night we would have a food themed night, Italian, German or Polish. The caterers would dream up dishes and we had a buffet line. We made money on the food and the beer.”

They moved the event to the current location of the Tuesday and Wednesday shows, which up to that point had been underutilized because the sun beat down on it and it became very hot in the afternoon.

As the event grew, they booked the best local bands, including Switch, a popular Western New York Beatles tribute band that has since disbanded (founder John Connelly is currently a member of The BBC Band).

“It was successful but we needed to jump start it and decided to go for national acts. The first national act we had there was Rik Emmett from the popular Canadian band Triumph. Then little by little we got bigger and bigger crowds, but what made it really happen was the V.I.P boxes on the top bow.”

There are 21 full-size V.I.P boxes and currently there is a waiting list to obtain one. Osborne hopes to plan a two-tiered clubhouse to allow for more sponsors.

Over the years, the free shows featuring national acts became larger. What started out as a low-key event in a parking lot that attracted four or five hundred people, evolved into rock concerts that drew crowds estimated as high as 30,000.

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