Musikfest is like Black Friday for local small businesses

Written by on July 30, 2021

Musikfest is like Black Friday for local small businesses

By Hayden Mitman
July 30, 2021

A busy Main Street Bethlehem during 2019 Musikfest. Photo | Staci Inez / WLVR

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Over a million people are expected to visit Musikfest this year and retailers are looking forward to the business that they will bring. 

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Local vendors, like George Gilreath, owner of Casa de Jorge Salsa Company in Bethlehem, are busy getting ready.

“Musikfest is our Black Friday,” he said.

Gilreath moved to Bethlehem from Ohio after falling in love with the area and seeing his salsas sell well at the free music festival.    

Neville Gardner, owner of Donegal Square and the Red Stag Pub on Main Street in Bethlehem, said his business grew alongside Musikfest.

“It brought so many new customers in. So many people found us. We did really, really, really well,” said Gardner.   

Organizers said small businesses often bet big on Musikfest and the event can make their year. 

Kassie Hilgert, president and chief executive officer at ArtsQuest, the organization that presents the annual festival, said before the pandemic, Musikfest brought in more than $77 million to the local economy.

“That’s hotel stays, it’s restaurants, it’s all the infrastructure that we put out on the street in order to put that festival on,” she said. “So, that’s not money that comes into our coffers, that’s money that gets injected into the economy.”

But, last year, the festival was held largely online. Gilreath said that really hurt.  

“Musikfest is huge for a lot of people, and it was, for the lack of a better word, devastating,” he said.

The 11-day mostly free music festival will kick off on Aug. 5, and so far will be held without any masking requirements.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance on July 27 suggesting those in areas with substantial transmission rates — like Northampton County —  should wear masks indoors. 

Organizers say they are working closely with city officials and will adjust planning if necessary.  

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