Soldiers Field Memorial Park is located in the heart of Rochester, but to Carole Brown it seems like the wide-open spaces.
“It’s such a huge venue,” Brown said. “Every time I go over there, I go ‘Holy cow.'”
Brown is quickly becoming familiar with Soldiers Field in her role of director of Rochesterfest. The annual city celebration, which starts Saturday, is moving to Soldiers Field this year, having been bumped out of its familiar home downtown by construction at Mayo Civic Center.
After a saga of several months, which included other proposed and rejected sites, Rochesterfest organizers settled on Soldiers Field as the new site of Rochesterfest. Events that are part of the festival — the triathlon, the library’s book sale, the disc dog competition, the drum and bugle corps show — will continue to be held around the city. However, the main stage, food vendors and related activities will be at Soldiers Field.
Following years of being located in what was basically a bricks-and-concrete canyon on Civic Center Drive, Rochesterfest now has plenty of room to spread out, breathe deeply and take advantage of all that open land.
“There is so much more space there,” Brown said.
Here’s how Rochesterfest will be set up in Soldiers Field:
— The 30 food vendors, the same number as in past years, will be set up on the running track, 15 on the east side, 15 on the west side. Three large tents will be erected on the football field (there had been room for only one tent at the downtown site). The stage will be set up at the north end of the field.
— Parking. Take a deep breath, and here we go: Parking in the golf course parking area will be allowed only for people who are heading to the course or to the adjacent swimming pool, until those facilities close for the day. Parking will be allowed in the tennis court lot, along the east side of the park on Soldiers Field Drive, at the Kmart store across Broadway from the park, and after work hours in four Mayo Clinic surface lots located just north of Sixth Street Southwest. George Gibbs Drive, on the west side of the park, will be closed to traffic and available as parking for vendors and volunteers.
— A free trolley will run continuously from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday from the Marriott Hotel downtown to the park. “We’re hoping people will jump on, grab a lunch and get back to work,” Brown said.
— The Rochesterfest parade, on June 26, will start just north of the park on Sixth Street Southwest, and wind through the Historic Southwest neighborhood before finishing at Soldiers Field. The route is one mile long — slightly shorter than in past years, In addition, the streets in the neighborhood are narrower than were the streets along the downtown parade route.
— In recognition of the park’s neighborhood setting, events will end an hour earlier than previous years, at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and at 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Will any of these changes affect the popularity of some of Rochesterfest’s signature events? As is the case with so much of the festival this year, only time will tell.
“We may draw people to Soldiers Field who didn’t want to go downtown,” Brown said.
In any event, it appears likely Rochesterfest is at Soldiers Field to stay.
“There is no returning (to downtown),” Brown said. “There will be no going back. This is permanent. That’s great. I think people will get used to coming to Soldiers Field.”