Secret concert in Ogden overwhelming success

Tuesday , August 05, 2014 - 12:00 AM

OGDEN — Apparently a lot of pre-show advertising and publicity isn’t needed to bring out thousands of music lovers in Ogden.

By all accounts, a surprise concert and parade organized by PepsiCo Inc. and Downtown Ogden Inc. was an overwhelming success, bringing a crowd of thousands to the intersection of Grant Avenue and Historic 25th Street on Saturday. The event was part of Pepsi’s “Real. Big. Summer.” campaign. The food and beverage corporation is hosting surprise concerts and music festivals at locations scattered all across the country.

The secret concert was kept under wraps until late Friday afternoon, when word leaked out that former “American Idol” winner Phillip Phillips would be headlining the free show.  

“It was about 4 o’clock when the word started leaking out that it would be Phillip Phillips,” said Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell. “I had people calling me saying, ’Tell me who it’s going to be. I know you know.’ But we honestly didn’t have any idea who it was going to be.”

Ogden Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson said he attended the show and estimated that up to 10,000 people showed up to the concert.

“It was essentially all word of mouth and social media driven,” Johnson said of the large crowd. “I know Pepsi was really pleased with the turnout.”

The only real advertising for the event came in the form of cryptic Pepsi signs placed on a few light posts along 25th Street that read only, “Something Big is Happening”, Pepsi-themed city benches decorated with sand and beach umbrellas and free sodas being handed out at various locations throughout Ogden.

Kendra Francis attended the show because she happened to be in Ogden and noticed something unusual was happening on 25th Street.

“We passed by 25th Street and noticed something was going on,” she said. “At first we were hearing Pink or Maroon 5 was going to perform, then finally we heard it was Phillip Phillips. It was basically all word of mouth.”

Francis said the show was energetic and well-attended. The mayor, Johnson and Downtown Ogden Inc. executive director Dan Musgrave all said they’ve only received positive response from Ogden residents and others who attended the show.

Phillips mentioned his performance on Twitter soon after the show ended Saturday night.

“Awesome time in Ogden tonight,” the singer-songwriter wrote.

Johnson said Pepsi approached the city about the show months ago, and soon after began obtaining the necessary permits to close down 25th Street and throw an impromptu concert. Pepsi was initially inspired to come to Ogden by Karen Waters, owner of Karen’s Out West Cafe on 25th Street, who has featured Pepsi products at her restaurant for 19 years.

Waters was one of five Pepsi retailers across the country that the company awarded with a free, surprise concert. Waters was also presented with a jukebox exclusively featuring two of her favorite artists, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.

Johnson and Musgrave said Pepsi is also looking to film scenes for a new national ad campaign along 25th Street.

“They like the feel of 25th Street,” Johnson said.

Musgrave said Pepsi isn’t the only cola powerhouse interested in 25th Street. About five years ago, he said, Coca-Cola donated money to improve building facades along 25th Street. During the Pepsi parade, Coke products could be seen conspicuously placed along the street.

“We’ve got both of the big cola companies interested in 25th Street,“ Musgrave said. ”With companies like that showing interest, we hope others will follow.“

Musgrave said between the parade, the concert and the opening day of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Ogden temple open house, there were approximately 40,000 people in the city on Saturday. The temple open house will run until Sept. 6 and the city expects at least 750,000 visitors to converge on the downtown area during the next five weeks.

Caldwell said restaurants in the downtown area reported two-hour wait times Saturday. 

”It’s really an exciting time for Ogden,“ the mayor said. ”The energy so far, has been electric. It’s going to be an interesting month.“

On Monday, the LDS Church said more than 500,000 people have already made reservations to visit the temple.

Contact reporter Mitch Shaw at 801-625-4233 or Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.

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