Big events are back, but are Raleighites ready to make a return?

Josh Chapin Image
Saturday, May 29, 2021
Big events are back, but are Raleighites ready to make a return?
There's a concern there isn't enough demand for big festivals and concerts; one organization had to close one of its attractions due to not being able to sell enough tickets.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As more people hit the road for Memorial Day weekend and COVID restrictions eased, there's a new concern that there isn't enough demand for large ticket events like big festivals and concerts.

Shop Local Raleigh had to cancel a skating event downtown last weekend because they couldn't sell enough tickets after the same event sold out last month.

The NC Hops Festival at the Fairgrounds in a few weeks is still on but there's still an issue with demand.

Red Hat Amphitheater had its first show since 2019 on Thursday night that sold hundreds of tickets but the capacity is in the thousands.

For the Red Hat Amphitheater's first concert back since 2019, the venue welcomed local hip-hop group Kooley High and an opener by The Hot at Nights.

"People have learned how to socialize in their neighborhoods," said Jennifer Martin, executive director of Shop Local Raleigh. "We are trying as event producers -- if we shake our magic eight ball -- what is it that people are wanting to do?"

Dr. Stacy Wood, a professor in the Poole College of Management at NC State University, said consumption habits have had a lot of time to morph in the last year and are thus geared to a bigger event.

She said it's more on event organizers to work harder to attract attention.

Martin said being the first of a big event to come back is a challenge from all angles.

The Hops Festival would have traditionally been in downtown Raleigh on Fayetteville Street as Brewgaloo -- but a lot of the planning started happening before restrictions were loosened.

"I'm comfortable doing anything because I'm vaccinated," said Kelsey Grambeau, who was out walking Glenwood South on Friday with friends. "Maybe I'd be more hesitant about shaking someone's hand or giving them a hug just because we haven't done that in a year."

Tray Ruffin is not as comfortable as Kelsey.

"I've gotten used to staying at home and being in the house really," he said. "I go to work, I come home but I'm trying to get out more because I am vaccinated."

Red Hat said they want to make sure people are as comfortable as possible when coming back to a bigger venue -- thus the different seating options on the lawn or at spread-out tables. Then there are other things they've put in places like wandless metal detectors.