Music Under the Stars season ends Sunday with attendance increasing

EL PASO, Texas - Music Under the Stars organizers did not know what to expect when the 29th season got underway in June after suffering a massive drop off in attendance last year.

"We're really happy," said Ben Fyffe, Cultural Programs Supervisor at Museums and Cultural Affairs Department (MCAD) at City of El Paso. "We kind of projected we would see an increase, we just didn't know how big that increase would be."

Attendance so far this season has increased 50 percent to about 60,000. That number is expected to get another bump with the program's most popular draw, mariachi night, on Sunday to close out the season.

The ban on alcohol at the Chamizal National Memorial Park last year during Music Under the Stars led to a dramatic drop in attendance from a season average of about 110,000 to 39,000.

The Museums and Cultural Affairs Department received feedback from the public that people were not attending last year because of the alcohol ban which led officials to reconsider that decision.

"One of the best gauges has been our Facebook page," Fyffe said. "Last season, everyday when we would open the page it was just venom dripping off the page with people mad about the alcohol situation. This season, there have been maybe a few negative comments but most have been positive about the return of the chilled out vibe at Music Under the Stars."

Concert-goers are now allowed to purchase beer or wine from the onsite vendor, Coconuts.

At the first concert, Coconuts had one beer station set up but has since expanded to about six stations. MCAD officials said it is a quick line with never more than six to seven people in a line and a four-minute wait.

Fyffe said he has not heard of there being any arrests or problems at concerts this season.

"I do know that the National Park Service has been really happy because they have not been seeing any of the incidents that were causing them heartache."

Fyffe and his coworkers don't get a lot of time to rest. Three or four weeks after the season is over they begin planning next season.

"We're really excited everything turned out well," Fyffe said. "Hopefully, next year's will be bigger and better. It will be our 30th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of the venue we use. That's two big milestones." 

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