MANKATO — In a new place, on a new day and with new beneficiaries, longtime Solstice fan Sandy Bartlett said he’s not ready to decide if all the change is for the better.
“The music’s fantastic,” he said of the Riverfront Park amphitheater. Organizers used the city’s sound system, which proved to be quite loud Saturday.
The parking wasn’t as good as it was in Land of Memories Park, Solstice’s previous location, because you have to walk farther here, he said.
“We’ll have to wait a couple of years” to see if the new location beats the old, said Bartlett, of Mankato.
“We’re expecting to have a great time,” he added.
The move was forced by the city’s choice to move campgrounds in Land of Memories after 2010 flooding virtually destroyed other sites. Event Coordinator Val Curtis said the city promised to help them settle in at Riverfront Park.
“They have been as good as their word,” Curtis said.
The park opened in 2009 after about $3 million in spending, mostly from the half-percent sales tax.
Rain was another hindrance Saturday, as showers briefly sprinkled Riverfront Park at about 2:15 p.m., before moving off.
Curtis said the motivation to move to a two-day event for the eighth annual Solstice was to raise more money for the charities. After all, most of the fixed costs of the event — like tents and sound equipment — wouldn’t be much more expensive to leave up an extra day.
Solstice was invented as a fundraiser for History Fest, held annually at Jack McGowan’s farm, but the concert was proving to be too much work for too little money, Curtis said.
“Jack McGowan and I decided that two big events a year is straining us,” Curtis said of History Fest and Solstice.
But she said the volunteers wanted to keep it going, so they found a new charity to which profits are donated (after a prudent reserve for later years) and are continuing the event separately from McGowan’s History Fest.
The charity is the House of Hope, a drug and alcohol treatment facility with sites in Mankato, at 1429 Third Ave., and Fairmont, where a 26-bed operation opened Jan. 3.
Marketing Director Mark Johnson said the proceeds will go to people who come to them without any money. It’s a way to help sustain people before government assistance kicks in, he said.
The ECHO Food Shelf is another beneficiary, as attendees can get $1 off a ticket by bringing food.
Andrew Edwards, a Mankato man who said he’s attended Solstice for about five years, said he likes the show because there are two stages — in this case the amphitheatre was divided into two of them — making the music more or less continuous.
He brought a canopy to shield himself from the rain, with bug repellent burning next to him and a cooler at his feet. Solstice allows attendees to bring in their own drinks, which Edwards said saves a lot of money.
As for the new site, he’s not crazy about the parking, but he didn’t seem to mind much.
Looking out over a 2 p.m. crowd of 100 or so, Edwards said there were fewer people there than he would’ve expected.
“Usually it’s packed,” he said.
While that could be a function of the poor weather, Edwards also said rain hasn’t phased concert-goers in the past. At a Solstice a few years ago, organizers announced they were under a tornado warning and said people could leave if they liked.
“Nobody moved,” Edwards said.
By 7 p.m., there were about 700 attendees, Curtis said, compared to about 3,000 for Solstice’s previous one-day events.
“The Saturday thing is all brand-new,” she said. “It’s just going to take time to train people in.”
Solstice continues 1-5 p.m. today.