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Too popular? Newmarket resident questions crowds at free concerts

Thousands attending summer concerts are crammed into too small a space, and there's not enough parking, resident says; while mayor responds 'the crowds are fantastic' and events are well managed
Around 3000 people were at Riverwalk Commons for the final concert in the 2019 TD Music series. Greg King for NewmarketToday

Newmarket resident Phil Parsons has long been a fan of the free summer concerts put on by the town over the years.

He said he frequently attended free concerts when they took place at Fairy Lake Park. 

But as Newmarket’s population has climbed and the venue shifted to Riverwalk Commons, he said attending the concerts like he used to has become too difficult.

“There were several instances last year where we tried to attend events going on there during the summer, but there was just no parking — period,” he said. “It was the wrong move to move events like this to the Commons.”

The town is once again readying to host the free tribute concerts at Riverwalk Commons for the TD Newmarket Music Series, with bands lined up every Thursday night in July and August. The events are highly popular, attracting thousands of patrons to the downtown core for the shows.

But Parsons said there is simply not enough parking to accommodate the crowds, and the Commons area does not necessarily have the space to accommodate that many people.

“For the number of people that can participate in these events, it’s just not a big enough area,” he said, adding that navigating the crowds and getting to washrooms can be challenging. “It’s just too small an area for the population the size of Newmarket.” 

Newmarket Mayor John Taylor said the summer concert series has become something people look forward to year-round and has been a bright spot coming out of the pandemic. 

“The crowds are fantastic. More people from our community are able to enjoy this amazing outdoor event,” he said, adding it helps the town’s efforts to promote the downtown, as well. 

As for parking concerns, he said there have to be some allowances for surge events, like Canada Day or the Pride Festival, where the downtown becomes more filled and parking less available. More parking is coming into the downtown, but Taylor said it is not feasible to build enough to accommodate everyone for those larger events, particularly given those extra spaces would not be needed year-round.

“People find a way to get there alternatively,” Taylor said, adding he himself bikes to the concerts. 

During the shows, the town ensures there are marked pathways and walkways, with staff on hand to manage them, Taylor said. They also have a lounge area where people can observe the concert on a screen nearby.

“We’ve taken, in my opinion, all the kind of steps one should think about and take to ensure it is accessible,” Taylor said. “We want to make sure it can support as many people as possible.” 

Parsons said the concerts are one of his favourite summertime activities, but he has been switching and attending ones in Aurora and even East Gwillimbury due to space concerns. He said he thinks Newmarket should look at switching up the venue.

The current venue is "cramming many people into a small space,” Parsons said.

The central location and parking available at Riverwalk Commons make it ideal, Taylor said, noting there are also supportive facilities like the community centre nearby.

“It’s turned out to really have managed this well, its brings (a) kind of urban energy,” he said. “Is it a big crowd? Sure, absolutely, but I wouldn’t be feeling or thinking that I can think of a better location." 

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Joseph Quigley

About the Author: Joseph Quigley

Joseph is the municipal reporter for NewmarketToday.
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