The revival of one lost signature event in La Jolla could lead to the resurrection of another.
Proceeds from The La Jolla Open Water Swim, held Sept. 8 after a brief hiatus, could lead to the return of the La Jolla Concerts By The Sea summer series, discontinued in 2016 due to funding problems.
La Jolla Parks and Beaches, Inc. member Judy Halter is spearheading the comeback of both homegrown La Jolla events. Halter was successful this year in creating a new, downsized swim event modeled on the former La Jolla Rough Water Swim. That long-lived event was discontinued for a couple of years due to previous high bacteria levels in La Jolla Cove.
Then Halter got another brainstorm: Why not use proceeds from the swim to bring back Concerts By The Sea, which ran 33 consecutive years before being discontinued?
That concert series ultimately succumbed to funding issues due to lack of sponsors.
“We have tentative permits from the city for a 2020 summer concert series for July 12, 19 and 26 as well Aug. 2,” said Halter. “Concerts will take place from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. We are grateful that, due to civic engagement and support of The La Jolla Cove Swim, we will be able to fund the summer concert series.”
Halter said Andrew Johnson has volunteered his band, Full Strength Funk, to play the first concert in the new series on July 12. She added that Howard Zatkin has consented to procuring the concerts for next summer as well as organizing the events.
The revival of the summer concert series came as good news to Ron Jones, who previously emceed and co-produced La Jolla Concerts By The Sea.
“Of course, the board members were disappointed when the weekly sponsorships, one by one, dried up forcing us to, over time, cut back on the number of Sunday performances from 14 to eight,” said Jones. “Production costs were increasing each year as the city kept piling on new regulatory requirements from providing port-a-potties, dumpsters, paying park support staff and increasing Scripps park use permits.”
Added Jones, “When the concerts began in 1984, as a La Jolla Rotary Club-inspired community activity, the city Parks Department provided staff, chairs, and a show wagon with a flip-down stage. Most people don’t know it was simply a bottom line that killed the concerts, not a lack of interest by the organizers or the happy folks that attended this fun, summer-long community tradition. If Judy Halter and her group want to talk about reviving the concerts, we’re open to that discussion.”
Attorney ShirleyMae Davis, who co-produced and organized La Jolla Concerts By The Sea, had one piece of advice to offer organizers seeking to bring the concert series back.
“Don’t go there unless you’ve been assured of financial support,” Davis warned. “Otherwise, you’re just beating your head against the wall.”
Of the demise of the previous summer concert series, Davis said, “We could not go forward anymore because the money just died out. The whole thing became more expensive with more and more costs.”
Davis said the final cut was a requirement for the nonprofit staging the event to furnish a second port-a-potty, not for concertgoers, but to serve everyone else in Scripps Park on concert Sundays.
Jones said concessions at the summer series also became a problem.
“Selling hot dogs wasn’t an issue until, after 30 years, we were prevented sales by the Coastal Commission because we didn’t have an on-site sink with hot water to rinse out the pot,” Jones said. “Ultimately, we had to subcontract a food service to handle the food, which diminished a needed side revenue stream.”
Davis and other organizers were sad to see Concerts By The Sea end.
“We did not close down,” she said. “This was not our wish. We did it reluctantly, because we simply could not afford to keep going. We told everybody that we would keep open the idea of revitalizing the event for two years, to see if someone would come forward with the funding needed to revitalize it. Of course, that never happened.”