2005 deepened Cape's store of cultural experiences

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Harley-Davidson riders converged on Cape Girardeau, the city's "Mississippi River Tales" floodwall mural was dedicated, ArtsCape and Tunes at Twilight drew the largest audiences in the history of the events while the City of Roses Music Festival struggled to find a new direction during 2005.

More than 2,000 members of the Missouri Harley-Davidson Owners Group rumbled into Cape Girardeau for a long weekend of fun in September 2005. The bikers toured various communities in Cape Girardeau County and paraded through the city before arriving downtown for a Saturday night street festival. The 1970s band Black Oak Arkansas provided some of the entertainment on Water Street.

The thundering engines set off burglar alarms in downtown businesses.

An estimated 2,800 bikers attended the rally during its previous visit to Cape Girardeau in 2001.

The 2005 rally could have pumped more than $1 million into the regional economy. The average tourist visiting Cape Girardeau spends $135 per day, according to the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Thomas Melvin, the Chicago artist who created the mural, was among 200 people who attended the July 7 dedication along with U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, and Mayor Jay Knudtson. Emerson helped secure federal funding that paid for more than half the $300,000 project. Melvin's fellow artists working on the mural included Ian Caldwell, May Melvin, Amanda Thornberry, Megan Thrower, Craig Thomas and Cameron Pfiffner.

Six-and-a-half years of planning and work went into the mural. Tim Blattner, president of the River Heritage Mural Association, received a standing ovation when introduced.

An estimated 2,200 people attended ArtsCape at Capaha Park in May. The event sponsored by the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri offered a puppet show and bubble-blowing station, arts and crafts activities for children, dozens of vendor booths and music all day long.

Rebecca Fulgham, executive director of the arts council, resigned at the end of the 2005. The organization is searching for a new director.

Tunes at Twilight completed its fifth year of presenting music under the trees at Common Pleas Courthouse Park. The lineup included both touring musicians and such local favorites as Bruce Zimmerman, Doug Rees and Mike Renick. The performance by Nashville performer Kimberley Dahme, who also is the bass player for the rock band Boston, drew the largest audience of the summer. The audience for all the shows combined was about twice as big as the previous year.

The City of Roses Music Festival sustained a change in leadership just prior to the September event, but the show did go on. A hip-hop Christian band was among the offerings. At the beginning of 2006 organizers said they need to find a new source of funding if the festival is to continue. They hoped to align themselves with the downtown redevelopment organization Old Town Cape.

Those weren't the only events that drew crowds. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra filled up the Show Me Center in its second performance here. The band performed its holiday show on Nov. 16.

More Show Me Center crowds saw country legend Willie Nelson and Family, contemporary Christian singer Michael W. Smith, comedian Larry the Cable Guy and bluegrass performers Allison Krauss and Union Station.

Scott City native Randy Leiner, frontman for the popular St. Louis band the Melroys, died unexpectedly in February 2005. The Melroys' self-titled album was riding high on the national Americana chart at the time. Largely through proceeds from a well-attended concert in the summer in Scott City, family members and friends established a scholarship in Leiner's name at Southeast Missouri State University.

Two new art galleries deepened Cape Girardeau's store of cultural experiences. The Edward Bernard Gallery exhibits contemporary art glass. Dr. Sarah Riley, a member of the art faculty at Southeast, opened the Fountain Street Gallery in the house she formerly occupied. The gallery exhibits contemporary art.

The Modest Living Artists, a group of young artists whose work isn't odinarily shown in Cape Girardeau's more traditional galleries, appeared on the scene.

At the university, both the singing and dancing in a production of "Guys and Dolls" wowed audiences. Cape Girardeau native Judith Farris, recently returned from teaching voice in New York City, served an arts residency at the university and helped train the production's singers.

Chuck Ross retired from active participation in the River City Players after decades of involvement in the community theater group.

Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle won a 2005 Governor's Humanities Award for his novel, "The Gold of Cape Girardeau." Southeast Missouri State University regent Edward "Ned" Matthews received the Pioneer America Society's Fred Kniffen Award for the book "Matthews: The Historic Adventures of a Pioneer Family." Both books were published by the Southeast Missouri State University Press.

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