The Chautauqua Lake Pops weighs the best place for its future, from Bemus Point to Jamestown and even as far as Buffalo.
Originally known as Bemus Bay Pops, the organization has spent 18 years here bringing music and other entertainment to the waterfront. But after owner Dan Dalpra sold the Italian fisherman in 2018, the Pops moved to Mayville a year later.
After a three-year run, it looks like Dalpra is looking to move on. His contract is up and he paid the village $3,394 for the 2021 season. He had offered to extend his contract to Mayville until 2022 by canceling 2020 when there were no performances, but officials refused to accept this.
Dalpra noted that he was willing to search outside of Mayville for the Pops’ next home. “The Pops have done their best to provide a successful program to the Mayville community for three years, but it has been met with resistance on many fronts. We don’t want to be where we are not welcome. We cannot afford to continue to suffer financial losses and manage conflicts,” he said.
One location Dalpra is considering is back at Bemus Point. Tom Meyers, who now owns The Fish in the village, said he supports the Pops’ return to his area. “Once we knew Mayville was not a viable option for Dan, he approached me about possibly bringing him to Bemus Point,” Meyers said in a phone interview.
Meyers believes that not only The Fish, but all local businesses would benefit from the return of the Pops. “It would help all the small businesses in Bemus. There would be a lot more foot traffic in Bemus on weekends,” he said.
Meyers had put the possibility on Facebook before and was met with a lot of support. He’s also spoken to a number of people in the Bemus Point area who say they’re at least interested in helping sponsor the Pops.
The price of the program is the biggest question for Meyers. “It costs a lot of money to run Pops programs. Trying to figure out who is going to foot the bill is the hardest part,” he said.
According to Dalpra, the minimum annual budget for the Pops series is $350,000. “Shows are expensive. They are really good shows. They come from all over the country. he said.
Meyers said he was willing to donate $20,000 and provide the space on his lakefront property and utilities for free.
There are other locations that Dalpra is also considering. In his letter, Dalpra said the Pops approached the town of Jamestown, the village of Celoron and the town of Buffalo. Long Point State Park and Midway State Park were also considered for possible locations.
Although Dalpra has been frustrated with his time in Mayville, Mayor Ken Shearer hopes he will still consider returning to the village for a fourth year. “I know I didn’t give up. I cannot speak on behalf of the entire board,” he said in a phone call on Friday.
The next Mayville Village Board meeting is Tuesday. Shearer said the Pops would be on the agenda, to see if there was anything they could do to save the relationship and bring them back.
Part of Dalpra’s problem was a lawsuit that was filed against the Pops over the volume. While they were able to turn their speakers inward and have shows in 2021, that lawsuit was not dismissed and the four plaintiffs could talk about it again if he brings the Pops back to Mayville.
Dalpra did not give a timeline as to when he hopes to decide where they meet in 2022 or whether they will take a year off and research their options. The Pops took off in 2018 when they moved from Bemus Point to Mayville.
Meyers said it’s up to Dalpra to decide what’s best for his organization, but the sooner he finds out, the better. “All companies are planning for a great year in 2022, so we’re trying to figure out how to incorporate Pops into all of our plans so that has to happen very soon,” he said.
In a phone interview, Dalpra said no decision has been made. “We have no idea how this is going to play out,” he said.
Because they’ve been doing this for so many years, Dalpra believes that once they’ve settled in, if the infrastructure is available, they can get things up and running pretty quickly. “We’re good at what we do, so we can get there quickly,” he said.
The bigger issue, he noted, is funding. “We need to know how we are going to finance it” he said.
Dalpra said a return to Mayville is unlikely due to the lawsuit. “Our sponsors want us to be where there is no controversy” he said.
He blamed a small handful of individuals for his departure from the village. “It’s gotten so uncomfortable that last year our volunteers don’t want to come back and they are volunteers,” he said.
He thinks better leadership is needed in Mayville. “There is some serious soul-searching that needs to be done,” he said.