palm trees decorated with Christmas garland night

"The DSLG proposed removing the December weekend and Chocolate Affaire events from the budget — a total of $186,015 — instead using those funds to add decoration money to Glendale Glitter & Glow"

Members of the Glendale City Council discussed potential changes to the fiscal year 2020 downtown special events season during a workshop preceding the August 27 regular meeting.

Beginning with the 26th annual Glendale Glitters Spectacular Weekend on November 29, a series of annual special events will take place in Glendale, through which officials hope to bring tourism and business to the downtown area.

A group of merchants and persons interested in the happenings of downtown Glendale, called the Downtown Strategic Leadership Group (DSLG), recommended the series of changes to the proposed budget of special events. They feel the changes would benefit the city and its businesses.

“From the very beginning, back when I arrived back in February of 2016, we’ve been engaged with the council regarding how to really improve our historic downtown Glendale,” City Manager Kevin Phelps said, later adding, “We’re not achieving the level of success we’d all like to see.”

The events budget, approved by council in June, allocates money for the Glendale Glitters Spectacular Weekend, the Glendale Glitter & Glow, Glendale Chocolate Affaire and a December weekend celebration, totaling $412,720.

The DSLG proposed removing the December weekend and Chocolate Affaire events from the budget — a total of $186,015 — instead using those funds to add decoration money to Glendale Glitter & Glow, enhance some existing events and add downtown music events from Thursday to Sunday nights in April.

The DSLG maintains that the closing-off of downtown is often detrimental to the businesses, as it halts car traffic and accessibility as well as the ease of regular consumers to walk into stores.

“After all the holiday shopping is done (and) spring training is gone, we want to demonstrate over these four (April) weekends — Thursday through Sunday — that music really brings people together,” said Heidi Barriga, special events administrator.

Some council members agreed that something needs to change for the better in downtown. However, many, in particular Councilman Jamie Aldama and Councilwoman Lauren Tolmachoff, were opposed to eliminating the Chocolate Affaire in February.

“It seemed to me that the Chocolate Affaire was a successful, family-oriented kind of event that gave us good publicity and a positive impression statewide, so I’m not sure I’m ready to cancel it,” Tolmachoff said.

Aldama added, “It’s absurd to suggest that we do that; however, what we can do is recreate it.”

The recreation, or renovation, is exactly what the DSLG and Phelps envision for the Chocolate Affaire.

Phelps said he has been in communication with Cerrato Candy Company, one of the state’s famous candy companies and the presenter of the festival. Rather than a two-day event in its traditional format, he suggested that the company could possibly agree to a series of smaller events throughout the year in the area’s Civic Center.

“We’d be doing 12 to 16 days for the same amount of money,” he added.

While the DSLG only recommended action to the council — the Glendale City Council does not vote during workshops, and the discussion didn’t continue in the subsequent regular meeting — there will likely be more discussion about the use of city funds for special events.

Still, it appeared at the workshop that the wheels were put in motion to affect downtown in what some officials believe could be a positive way.

Vice Mayor Joyce Clark said it is promising that a group such as the DSLG exists, and that citizens are stepping up to try to make renovations for a downtown they agree needs them.

“Change is difficult; accepting something new is difficult for those who are used to doing the same thing over and over again,” Clark said, adding, “You are the catalyst for change in downtown.”