Our Views: Consider easing alcohol restrictions for Janesville music fests

Besides music, three weekend events in Janesville have one more thing in common: Alcohol sales will offset costs and help raise money.

If you enjoy live music, you have three good options this weekend in Janesville.

Let's start with the Rotary Corn Roast and Mud Volleyball event from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Traxler Park. Sweet corn is free and so are laughs as volleyball teams slog through mud. Activities and games will entertain kids, and an 11 a.m. ceremony will recognize high-achieving students. Jazzguise hits the stage at noon, the Manberries at 2:30 p.m. and Boondoggle at 5 p.m.

On Saturday and Sunday, you can groove inside and outside Bazinga Classic Pub & Grille, 1110 Kellogg Ave. It's disappointing that the downtown music fest Rock Around the Block won't happen this year. Brian Hughes of Bazinga's is trying to help fill that void. Rock band Kind of a Big Deal will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday. Sunday, he's putting on the Southside Rocks festival with six live bands inside and in the parking lot, performing from 1 to 10:30 p.m. Also on tap are a fire department brat fry, a corn boil and raffles. Proceeds will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Finally, the Riverside Music Festival is Sunday at Riverside Park. It starts with a shuffleboard tournament at 11 a.m., a Janesville Noon Lions Club chicken barbecue at noon and a pickle ball tourney at 1 p.m. The Go Deans Docs Rock will perform at 2 p.m., the Turtle Creek Chamber Orchestra at 3 p.m. and the UW-Rock County Jazz Ensemble at 4:30 p.m. Admission is free, but donations will benefit the Friends of Riverside Park improvement plans and homeless students through Project 16:49.

Besides music, these weekend events have one more thing in common: Alcohol sales will offset costs and help raise money. We hope the events attract enough music lovers—and responsible drinkers—to keep them running in years ahead.

The Friends of Riverside Park would like to offer musical events modeled after Beloit's popular Friday night riverside concerts at Harry's Place pavilion. In recent years, the group has talked about building a band shell—an idea with history behind it. Orchestras once performed regularly, and a 1926 article reported about plans to build such a band shell in Riverside Park.

Absent a generous donor, a band shell or concert gazebo might be years away, and concerts cost thousands of dollars to stage. Sunday's event will mix drinkers and nondrinkers in a designated, roped area. That's by design to lower liability insurance, says Pam Van Brocklin, former friends group president.

Yet the Bazinga's party won't have parking lot fencing, and people freely roamed designated streets and from tavern to tavern during Rock Around the Block. City ordinance requires fenced drinking areas, but the alcohol licensing committee opted to require only wristbands for drinkers during the defunct downtown fest.

Organizer Jeff Adams says Harry's Place concerts have been ongoing for 16 years without a designated drinking area and without problems. Alcohol also is served at Concerts on the Square and at musical events in Madison parks without fencing.

Yes, too many Janesville residents drink to excess. Yet those who overindulge will always find a time and place. Remember the fears about letting people enjoy a beer or two at Janesville Jets hockey games? We've heard of no problems.

It makes little sense to stymie the growth potential of musical events and fundraising efforts with Prohibition-style limits. It's time for Janesville to reevaluate its ordinances.