Wendel the man behind the Broad Street Bash

Who knew Wednesdays were good party nights?

Apparently, Jim Wendel got the memo. The founder of the Broad Street Bash, a popular summer music concert series in Middletown, has turned “Hump Day” into “Happy Hour” and Central Avenue into Party Central.

The Bash, which was held on seven Wednesdays during the course of June, July and August, has become a staple event in the community that attracts all types of people.

The event has grown from attracting 400 to 500 people during its first year in 2007 to bring 800 to 1,100 people into downtown Middletown this year.

“We’re bringing people here from varying socioeconomic backgrounds and from all walks of life,” said Tim Lewis, an organizer of the Broad Street Bash. “We see real people, rich and poor people, enjoying the music and dancing, and all of them having a good time. That’s what I enjoy.”

Organizers say the key to the event’s success lies in the bands it selects for entertainment, and in being sensitive to the current tough economic conditions.

“We want to make it fun, festive and affordable,” Wendel said. “We’ve made sure that the vendors’ products are affordable for the ‘Average Joe.’”

While supportive of the Bash, City officials provide no funding for the free outdoor concerts. An average Bash costs about $5,000 to put on, Wendel said, with the vast majority of expenses paid for through beer sales.

Wendel said the Bashes average about 80 to 110 cases of beer is sold per event, with a record 120 cases sold during the Menus concert in 2008.

The concert series expenses include money for the bands, sound system, portable toilets, insurance, police, the kids zone inflatables, advertising, and trash bags, Wendel said.

Adriane Scherrer, another organizer of the Bash, said some people believe the city puts on the concerts.

“They don’t,” she said. “Everything here is put on by volunteers.”

Volunteers led by Wendel who can be found darting throughout Governor’s Square Park during the concerts tending to any myriad of tasks from lining and emptying trash cans to icing the beer.

Helping him are a crew of nearly two-dozen volunteers that spend long days getting the Bash ready and cleaned up afterward.

Lewis, a good friend of Wendel’s for more than 20 years, got involved with the Bash after Wendel came back from meeting with the organizers of Party in the Park, a Cincinnati event the Bash is modeled after.

“Jim asked, ‘can we do this ourselves,’” Lewis said. “I said, ‘why not? Let’s do it.’”

Lewis said the first year, the organizers got help from Road Apple Music in Middletown to get local bands to play.

“We didn’t expect more than 400 to 500 people,” he said.

Over the next two years, the Bash would become “bigger and better,” Lewis said. He noted the bands are drawing people from Cincinnati and Dayton.

Aside from the attendance, a figure that’s equally telling about the Bashes success during the past three years is the number of major arrests: zero.

“I can’t think of any problems here,” said Maj. Mark Hoffman of the Middletown Division of Police. “It’s extremely well organized, well attended, good groups and crowds.”

Thom Shera of Franklin, a regular attendee at the Bash, said it’s always a nice night out. And Kendra Meade and Sara Langdon, both of Madison Twp., said they enjoy the music of the bands performing.

“I like the people. It’s a great atmosphere,” Meade said.

Marla Messer of Trenton, said she enjoys the livelier bands and the Bash’s “pleasant atmosphere.”

“No one gets out of line,” Messer said. “Everyone is here to have a good time and listen to the bands.”

Scherrer said the Bash has such a strong following that organizers already have money donated to start out 2010. “The Bash will live on another year,” she said.

Wendel added there is always a need for more volunteers to help out with the Bash. And despite all the praise for the Bash, Wendel did note one disappointing factor associated with the event.

“Not being able to control the weather,” he said with a smile.

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