Festival blues

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The City of Roses Music Festival began 10 years ago as a gleam in musician Bob Camp's eye. He fashioned it after the Memphis Crossroads Festival. The first year R&B legend Rufus Thomas headlined and 30 bands performed. More recent festivals have eschewed headliners while presenting nearly 90 musical acts.

One year the festival was the beneficiary of a grant from the Missouri Arts Council. Other years it has depended heavily on corporate and individual sponsors.

Gradually the diversity of music narrowed. A festival that had 15 stages in 1999 had four last year in addition to the downtown nightclubs. An attempt was made last year to make the festival more family-friendly.

In its 10th year the festival is threatened by money problems. It has about $5,000 in the bank after setting aside $7,000 last year to endow a music scholarship.

Right now the festival needs organizational help even more than money. Through the years, a few leaders like Camp, Brad Graham, Bill Shivelbine, Wes Wade, Dennis "Doc" Cain, Don Greenwood and Don Ganim have guided the festival with considerable help from volunteers. The task is so demanding that reinforcements invariably are needed.

Old Town Cape and the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri are models of organizations that could help the festival. The arts council's ArtsCape festival and holiday arts and crafts fair are well-produced events. Old Town Cape has a hit with Tunes at Twilight. The arts council and Old Town Cape don't have extra money for the music festival, but they do have expertise in fund raising they could share.

It would be better if the three organizations worked together to prevent the City of Roses Music Festival from going the way of Riverfest, the downtown summer festival that died in disorganization.

In the past 10 years downtown Cape Girardeau has ceased to be a dead zone. The City of Roses Music Festival deserves some of the credit and deserves to be supported.

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