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Block party slowed by rain

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Rain couldn’t stop the music at Saturday’s ninth annual Johnson-Witkemper Biggest Block Party Ever.

Attendance was a different matter, however. Forecasts throughout the day suggested the strong potential of threatening storms that night, which kept visitors away.

The event, one the Columbus Area Arts Council’s top two fundraisers, opened at 6 p.m. with a threat of thunderstorms on the horizon. Rain finally appeared at 9:45 p.m., but it was far from the torrential downpour that had been expected. The rain quickly dulled to

a drizzle.

“I could tell attendance was down,” said Karen Shrode, the arts council’s executive director. “Last year, people were cheek to jowl.”

By Monday afternoon, she estimated Saturday’s attendance at slightly less than 2,000 adults — or about 1,000 fewer people than attended in 2013. Final admission receipts, at $8 per ticket for adults, were still being tabulated.

This year’s Block Party attendance continues a downward trend since 2010.

4th Street Bar & Grill owner Kurt Schwarze, who oversaw the event’s two beer trailers, looked on as a handful of Block Party attendees — some with umbrellas and some without — danced in front of the Bud Light Stage for headlining act Dane Clark, who played from 10 to 11:30 p.m.

All 11 bands scheduled for the evening took to the covered stages at their appointed times.

“It was one of those days when it could have gone bad a long time before it did,” Schwarze said.

Garage Bar and Grill owner Steve Leach watched Saturday as restaurant vendors packed up their booths when the rain started to fall at 9:45 p.m.

The seven food vendors included Bistro 310, 4th Street Bar & Grill, The Garage Pub & Grill, Smith’s Row and Tre Bicchieri, as well as a lemon shake-up stand and a cotton candy and snow- cone vendor.

Leach had doubled the size of his food booth and added menu options, selling pulled pork sliders, kettle chips and queso and all-beef slaw dogs.

Even counting the drop in attendance and the early closings, his booth “stayed pretty busy,” Leach said. “We hit about the same numbers we hit last year.”

Shrode, in thanking those in attendance as well as sponsors, vendors and performing bands, noted that the final profit has yet to be tallied. She said, however, that the event would return for 2015.

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