Businesses prepare for Phish fan rush
WATKINS GLEN--The Phish Magnaball festival will run for three days at Watkins Glen International this weekend, starting Friday, Aug. 21and concluding Sunday, Aug. 23. The show sold out ahead of the event, which County Administrator Tim O'Hearn has previously said brought some $500,000 in sales tax revenue the last time the band visited the area in 2011. This year's event is expected to have similar results, as village businesses prepare to accommodate the sudden rush of Phish fans.
Jim Guild, owner of Famous Brands on North Franklin Street, said the last time the band visited was "really good for business." He noted the weekends during the summer are already good, so the added fans coming into the area only make it better.
"What struck us was the friendliness of the Phish fans," Guild said. "They were buying comfortable clothing and footwear. They were really struck by the area. A lot of them had never been here before."
"We got run over the last time Phish was here," said Todd Mertens, owner of Wright's Beverages. "We did better than NASCAR weekend."
Mertens said for this year he has ordered more canned beer than he has ever ordered in the history of the store. He added everything went smoothly with the customers as well, estimating it will be a big business weekend for nearly every place in Watkins Glen.
Guild said while the festival itself will bring in a fair amount of people to the village, he anticipates the days leading up to the show to bring the most people.
"I think it will really help during the week more," Guild said. "Although it is a three-day concert so they will come down off the hill, but I think a lot of them are coming early. I think it is the same people who travel with them and they have been here and know how beautiful it is. I'm thinking they are making a week's vacation out of it."
Guild, who also operates Ben & Jerry's ice cream along Franklin Street, noted many fans are already in town and visiting the local businesses.
"[Sunday, Aug. 16,] Ben & Jerry's was slammed with Phish people," Guild said. "They are here already. We saw a lot of them at Famous Brands, but especially at Ben & Jerry's."
Guild said the fans had a bus parked in front of the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel parking lot while they made their way up and down Franklin Street. He attributed Ben & Jerry's rush to the fact they have an ice cream flavor named after the band called "Phish Food." The show was so successful in 2011 the Schuyler County Legislature approved a police incentive to WGI in December of last year if they have similar events that can draw more than 20,000 people.