Pointe West hopes to draw from the east as new arts venue

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – A day of drenching rain may have done-in yet another effort to host the Mont Blanc Chamber Orchestra at the Pointe West community a few weeks ago.

But by the time the musicians were flying home to France the next morning, the clouds had parted on Pointe West as at least a capable planner in producing a large musical event of that caliber.

And the double dose of publicity for the event served to put Pointe West on the map for future events.

“It was always a vision having a summer concert series in that venue,” said Karen Mechling, Pointe West marketing and events coordinator. “This would have been the very first classical orchestra that we’ve had here. Had it manifested itself, it would have been a nice kickoff to show that it’s a wonderful venue for this type of event.”

It has taken a decade to get enough “rooftops,” in the lingo of developers, to support the entities that are now beginning to thrive at the New Urbanist village.

Last year, Heritage Park opened with facilities including a large pavilion, restrooms, and a playground.

“We’re getting our own demographic,” said Mechling. “We have become synonymous with ‘family friendly,’ and we see a younger crowd out here.”

The Chamber music concert was to have been a test to see if the venue can get away from that “stigma” – as she jokingly calls it – of family-friendly events.

“It would have been a very good indicator for who we could get out here. That’s why I was thrilled to get this event, because I’d like to see if we can change things up some.”

At only 2.2 acres, Heritage Park is surprisingly spacious. With a currently vacant “recreation track” adjacent to handle overflow, it can accommodate 4,500 people, she said.

Ringed with 10-foot-wide walkways designed for art fairs and tented displays, the space has an adjacent playground, and in addition to the large pavilion, there will be shade when landscaping becomes established.

Even as Mechling shook off her disappointment at the concert rained out for a second and final time, a ray of sunlight appeared in her office: Bobbi Spencer, the organizer of the Stuart, Fort Pierce and Vero Beach downtown farmer’s markets.

Spencer stopped in and firmed up an agreement on a new venture at Pointe West’s new park: a Friday morning Farmer’s Market, to be held weekly beginning in October.

Provided the county’s upcoming budgetary decisions in September fall in Pointe West’s favor, the venue’s schedule will continue to include monthly Screen on the Green outdoor movies for an eighth season; and Winterfest, with its trucked-in snow and ice-skating, and performances by the bands of the Vero Beach or Sebastian River high schools.

That event draws 8,000 people, Mechling said.

Meanwhile, Pointe West hosts a number of charity events. While Pointe West lost the Habitat for Humanity Hoedown to Riverside Park due to a lack of available electricity on the polo grounds, then its only option, the new Heritage Park has plenty of power available, and will once again host the two-day Firefighters’ Chili Cookoff, which Mechling said drew a crowd of 5,000 last year.

Last February, the park hosted a 5K Run/Walk for Literacy Services, and the previous October, a race benefiting Healthy Start Family Fun Run/Walk. There was also an Oktoberfest for Safespace.

“We’re here to help, and it’s a beautiful venue,” said Mechling. “It’s not about making money. It’s about a wonderful space.”

She added that despite the weather setbacks, she still hopes to bring classical concerts to Pointe West.

“I’ve always dreamed of having monthly outdoor concerts,” she said.

Several years ago, she approached the Palm Beach Symphony Orchestra, and may resume talks with that group.

“I’ve talked to the Palm Beach Pops,” she said. “We have the Brevard Symphony at Windsor for the May Pops concert, why can’t we get a similar event here?”

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