Downtown restaurants help keep Downtown Sundown concert series going

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Wilmington's longstanding Downtown Sundown concert series will continue--at a temporary location, if needed--thanks to the help of area residents and downtown restaurant owners. Photo courtesy Wilmington Downtown Inc.
Wilmington’s longstanding Downtown Sundown concert series will continue–at a temporary location, if needed–thanks to the help of area residents and downtown restaurant owners. Photo courtesy Wilmington Downtown Inc.

Wilmington’s Downtown Sundown Concert Series has been saved, thanks to the support of area residents–and the last-minute rallying of a handful of restaurant owners.

That’s according to Ed Wolverton, president and CEO of Wilmington Downtown Inc. (WDI), who said four downtown restaurants banded together to help fill in the $4,100 gap in a $9,000 Kickstarter campaign just hours before the campaign ended Wednesday night.

WDI initiated the crowd-funding effort to help secure a temporary spot for its long-running free summer concerts, which had been held on Water Street at Riverfront Park on Friday evenings.

The concerts will likely be displaced this season, its 10th, and possibly part of next year’s series due to scheduled improvements to Water Street that will close the roadway between Market and Princess streets. Wolverton said WDI found a nearby parking lot at Water and Princess but needed funds to lease the privately owned space.

“WDI volunteers selected the location to remain in close proximity to dozens of businesses and the riverwalk,” Wolverton noted.

With the Kickstarter campaign winding down Wednesday afternoon, WDI was more than halfway away from its total goal. Then, Wolverton said, he got a call from James Smith of Fork N Cork, who asked if WDI would like some restaurant owners to get involved.

“Downtown has been great to my new business and I was looking for a way to give back,” Smith said. “When this opportunity arose, I thought it would be a perfect way for me and other restaurateurs to come together and support a family friendly series that brings over 25,000 people to downtown during the summer.”

A few phone calls later and Smith had Slice of Life owner Ray Worrell, Tom Harris of Front Street Brewery and Shuckin’ Shack proprietors Matt Piccinin, Sean Cook and Carrie Vossler on board to help WDI reach its goal.

“Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing platform where the organizer must meet their funding goal or receive nothing. I was keeping an eye on the deadline and then this opportunity came along to bring it all together,” Harris noted.

While the final push from business owners put WDI over the top, Wolverton said it never would have happened without the early contributors to the Kickstarter campaign.

Andrew Gray, chair of WDI’s play committee, agreed.

“We are delighted that these downtown restaurants partnered at the last moment to make the campaign a success,” Gray said. “We also appreciate the fact that over 100 other people were early supporters and created the awareness and momentum that attracted others to join in. We could not have done it without their support at the beginning.”

The first concert of the season is set for 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, May 22, at its usual location at Riverfront Park. Wolverton said Wilmington City Council is scheduled to award a contract for construction of the Water Street project on June 16. If all goes as planned, WDI will have to relocate the Downtown Sundown Concert Series to the adjacent lot later this summer.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or hilary.s@hometownwilmington.com.