Questioning the festival’s figures

Happy Fremont Festival of the Arts to all of you who like big crowds, cover bands and the biggest selection of wind chimes east or west of the Mississippi. It’s a great day to buy faux Navajo jewelry.

I got a call Friday that I’d been dreading for about for years. The caller’s a big fan of the festival, but he said there’s no way it gets nearly 400,000 people over two days. The chamber says it gets about 385,000, but since it’s free and no one has to sign up for anything, that figure is probably more art than science.

I tried to defend my many stories with the 400k figure, but I caved in pretty quickly.  If 400,000 is a fair estimate, that means that over the 16 hours of the festival, there is an average more than 20,000 people in attendance and that every hour there would have to be a completely new batch of 20,000+ people in attendance.

Basically that would mean the festival draws more than a sold out Sharks crowd every hour for 16 hours. The caller said if that was the case, the freeways and BART would be jammed packed and there wouldn’t be parking for two miles. But that isn’t the case.

At least that wasn’t the case in past years. I’m not going anywhere near that festival. But it’s only three weeks to the Niles Flea Market!!!

Matt Artz


  1. Don’t knock it. The big festival is the one chance that Fremont has to pull in big bucks for local charities.

    Every dollar hoovered out of the pockets of visitors does add to the quality of life for people that are clients of the local clubs and services.

    Helps balance the loss of local income that comes from residents shopping outside the city.

  2. I used to attend the Festival every year and take the kids. There were water balloon shooters and other fun games for the kids. This was run by teen age volunteers. Then the Chamber of Commerce brought in the Carney Crowd with carnival rides that are expensive and quick, I spent $80.00 bucks within minutes.
    We longer attend the Festival. When I did I bought food (Linguisa Sandwiches). I always bought the kids tye dyed shirts and I bought leather goods, but we no longer attend
    The Chamber of Commerce ruined the experience for us, by turning the children’s area a very expensive rides and people operating them, you would not invite to your homes.
    This is no longer a good place to take your kids.

  3. I agree. It has gotten very expensive. But hasn’t everything in Fremont? We’ve departed from our small town roots to become ‘big city.’

    Also it gets very hot and the shady places are too small, crowded, and far between for this old fogie. Also all the people with exposed tattoos scare me.

  4. After canceling the 4th of July fireworks, this is the last big yearly event Fremont has going for it. Interesting how many dislike it. I enjoy it for what it is. There is some ebb and flow year over year, but all in all it is a fun and safe event.

  5. Not sure a sporting event is an ideal comparison. Those crowds all arrive and leave at the same times. The festival entries/exits are continous throughout the day, with much smoother traffic impacts.

    Having said that, the last time I actually went to the festival it was small enough to be held in the hub parking lot. Maybe next year…

  6. Doesn’t your comment about traffic and parking for 20,000 people/hour depend largely on the assumption of one attendee per car? I know a lot of people who all come together in one car so they don’t all have to look for individual parking spaces. Also, don’t forget that there are still a significant number of people who live within reasonable walking or biking distance of the event.

    Still, I do think that the attendance figures have been questionable ever since the Chamber took over management of the event. It’s a reflex on their part to hyper-inflate anything they view as good for business.

    The arc of change that the Festival has undergone over the years is an interesting illustration of the direction in which the Chamber, the Council and city management want to drive the city; rigidly organized, expensive, crowded, generic and largely devoid of its original local flavor and focus. It’s become another McDonalds of local fairs – nothing wrong with it, but you could get the same meal at any McDonalds anywhere.

  7. Hi Ashley, et.al,
    The Fremont Chamber of Commerce has always hosted the Fremont Festival of the Arts. It started the event 28 years ago. That was when it was in the HUB parking lot and that was the first year I volunteered. I received a very nice compliment today from a Barbara who visited to tell how much she enjoyed Kids City…hosted by the YMCA…as the people working were so nice and friendly. Yes…everything cost more than it did 28 years ago. Remember that there are over 40 non-profits that each food booth. For many, this event is their major fundraiser for the year. Also keep in mind that the Chamber of Commerce must pay the City of Fremont for all police, fire and maintenance services used throughout the festival. Rightfully so, our city recovers their costs associated with this event. That is being a good steward of your tax dollars. Regardless of the actual number that attend, keeping an event of this size safe is priority number 1! If indeed it is rigidly organized… is a result of countless hours laying out this venue to make sure it is safe. I have heard of several events where errant vehicles have driven down street fairs or farmers markets injuring a great number of people. We take great care to make sure that is not possible. Regarding the food choices at the festival…that is up to each and every one of the non profits who particiapte. The various local service clubs and organizations decide on their own menu items and associated pricing. I hope this clears up some misconceptions about the event.

  8. “Doesn’t your comment about traffic and parking for 20,000 people/hour depend largely on the assumption of one attendee per car? ”

    Only to the degree that there is a significant difference in the way people travel to the Artz Festival as compared to a Sharks game.

    The originally stated comparison was that, if the attendance estimates were anywhere near accurate, “..the festival draws more than a sold out Sharks crowd every hour for 16 hours.”

    Since folks likely arrive and depart in an hour before and after a Sharks game, the comparison the comparison would seem to stand a test of reason and DOES take into account the varied arrival and departure times of the Fair attendees Geoff in #6 is suggesting is an offsetting consideration (e.g., 20,000 people EVERY HOUR – for the duration of the Fair)

    So, based on the above, while the attendance estimates are probably inflated, as Dirk points out – the beneficiaries of this philanthropic effort by our Chamber of Commerce are several charitable causes.

  9. “Artz Festival” – I like that!

    Sure, I believe everything Dirk says – ever since his memo in support of the stadium leaked out back when. No reason for a Planning Commissioner to maintain impartiality on a subject like that.

    Anyone familiar with the positions taken by the Chambers, i.e.

    lobbying against clean energy jobs and strong climate change legislation

    doing the dirty work of powerful oil and coal companies instead of doing what’s best for the economy

    paying for its political attack ads out of the same pot of money that holds all of it’s foreign donations

    their strong support for all corporate welfare, globalization and outsourcing

    their opposition to the health care reform act and financial regulation, etc., etc., will understand this guy’s choice to associate himself with that group.

    But I’m sure the Kids City rocks. Just like the Candle Lighters Ghost House is spooky fun in spite of their support for an anti-abortion group.

  10. Ashely #10,
    I was neutral on the Chamber of Commerce until I watched the documentary,


    this was a eye opener for me.

    The Chamber is Calling it Tort reform, me.
    A must see documentary, as was the Documentary
    “To Big to Fail”

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