Brass Band Festival crowd keeps an eye to the sky

June 14, 2004|HERB BROCK

Once again the Great American Brass Band Festival has served as a special weekend for meteorology as well as musicology as thousands of festival goers had to keep their eyes on the skies while keeping their ears tuned to the music.

But as in past years when the festival had been hit by bad weather, the show went on, despite periodic thunderstorms and rain showers that combined to drop more than 2 inches of rain on the 15th annual festival, Friday through Sunday.

The festival fared well despite the lack of fair weather, according to festival organizers.

"I think things went pretty well, given the weather we had," festival steering committee chairman John Albright said this morning, while a work crew from Northpoint Training Center joined volunteers in finishing the cleanup at the festival's main venues at Centre College and Weisiger Park.

"There haven't been many festivals where we haven't had some bad weather affect us, and we've also had some very hot weather," Albright said. "But it's a (testament) to the quality of bands we have and the other entertainment that's provided, plus the great food at the food booths, that people from all over the country keep coming."


Postponement of picnic was biggest blow

The biggest blow delivered by the weather was the postponement of the Saturday evening picnic, which by far is the festival's biggest drawing card. The picnic was postponed to early Sunday afternoon, following the community worship service; several hundred people attended the picnic Sunday, but in the past the event has drawn up to 15,000 people, including the hundreds in groups that buy the 170 or so picnic tables.

"What was amazing was that, despite the fact we put off the picnic till Sunday, we still managed to have a good crowd Saturday night," Albright said.

He said another victim of the weather was the souvenir tent. "The showers Saturday night really hammered the tent and kept down sales of T-shirts, tapes and the other memorabilia we sell there," Albright said. He said he didn't have final sales figures but doubts that more than half of the more than 2,200 T-shirts that had been printed for this year's festival were sold.

The good news, however, is that the hot air balloon race, which had been cancelled because of poor weather conditions in recent years, was held as scheduled Friday evening at the Danville-Boyle County Airport at Junction City.

Jerry Boyd, veteran logistics staff member, estimated total attendance at this year's festival at 25,000 to 28,000, and that includes the crowd that showed up at Friday's balloon race as well as the band performances Saturday and Sunday at Centre and Weisiger Park. The record attendance for the festival is more than 40,000.

People from more than two dozen states attended

The crowd that showed up to watch 300 musicians in 17 bands perform over the weekend included people from more than two dozen states with most coming from Kentucky and neighboring states, Boyd said.

"The postponement of the Saturday night picnic really hurt our overall numbers, but I am glad we decided to hold a smaller version of it on Sunday, especially for the people who bought tables," Boyd said. "The table fee is nonrefundable; we thought we owed it to those folks to keep the tables up and hold the picnic on Sunday, even though not many (of the tables) were used."

Albright tipped his hat to the nearly 200 volunteers from the community who helped set up and tear down the festival, transport musicians and work in the souvenir tent and at other venues.

"Without the support we get from these volunteers, there wouldn't be a festival," he said.

Planning will begin in the near future for the 16th festival, said Albright.

"Our finances took a little bit of a hit with the souvenir sales being down because of the bad weather, but we'll be OK. We are definitely a go for 2005," he said.

"Come rain or shine - and unfortunately, we've had way too much of the rain - there will be a 16th annual festival."

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