SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, which canceled the Final Stretch Music Festival late last year, is focusing its marketing efforts this Labor Day weekend on live performances in the city.
"We had this epiphany that Saratoga Springs has grown so much in terms of the number of bars and restaurants spread across the city, and so many of them host live entertainment," said President Todd Shimkus. "There are already a lot of live events, but we hadn't marketed any of them because we were so focused on booking the bands [for the Final Stretch Music Festival.]
"None of our members were getting promotion in prior years, and neither were the artists."
In December, the chamber decided to cancel the Final Stretch Music Festival traditionally held Labor Day weekend to mark the end of the season at Saratoga Race Course. It also canceled the Hats Off Music Festival, which kicks off horse racing in the city.
Both events featured performances on stages set up throughout the downtown area.
Shimkus said both the Hats Off and Final Stretch music festivals cost the chamber approximately $50,000 to pull off.
"With so many outdoor venues and performances happening in the city, it doesn't make sense to limit ourselves to a handful of locations," he said. "We found another way to accomplish our mission without spending money, time and effort.
"We're able to redeploy those resources to promote our members."
Matthew Bagley, owner and general manager of Harvey's Restaurant and Bar on Phila Street, said he appreciates the initiative by the chamber to promote its members.
"Any kind of publicity or press is good, especially when it's promoting something we're doing in-house," he said. "When they contribute, it's definitely appreciated."
Bagley said he didn't view the music festivals as competition for his business.
"They gave us more of a push that we wouldn't have had," he said. "They were good for the town and impacted business in a positive manner."
Shimkus said that, as chamber members send in information about their live music events this weekend, the organization will continue to update its Facebook event page, which outlines all the performances.
"I expect we'll have more than 20 venues with over 40 performances," he said of the marketing effort.
Charlie Usas, co-owner of The Barrelhouse on Beekman Street, said he supports the chamber's decision to promote the live music events by its members.
"When they hosted the music festivals, they were putting music in front of chamber members that already had music events going on," he said. "Now, they're using existing resources to highlight their members.
"Why force something when you already have something terrific in place?"
Usas said he specifically likes how the chamber is promoting businesses throughout the city, not just the downtown core, including the Beekman Street Arts District where his business is located.
"We do have a terrific downtown, but there are other neat neighborhoods that are developing and are part of the great things happening here in Saratoga Springs," he said. "This lets people who are here for the track see the whole city and the different stuff we have to offer here.
"It's a great time for people to come out, hear music and check out restaurants, bars and shops they might not otherwise have found."