A decade later ....

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The City of Roses Music Festival started its run in Cape Girardeau 10 years ago. In that time the festival has gone through a lot of changes, and received a lot of criticism. Where did the festival come from, where is it going and what you can expect this year.

Photo Illustration by Don Frazier (roses provided by the Council of Garden Clubs, guitar provided by Shivelbine's)

Mary Ramsey is the eternal optimist.

The young mother/musician/promoter always has a smile on her face, and always speaks nicely about her current project, the City of Roses Music Festival.

"We just want to keep things positive," says Ramsey.

"Positive" is definitely the way Ramsey and fellow festival organizers Don Ganim --†the festival chair -- and Mary Ann Forester have presented their festival in the run-up to the event this year.

At least Ramsey has.

She's taken on the role as spokesperson for the festival instead of her less-media-savvy counterparts in the hopes of instituting some information control. And control she has, giving out little information about the COR just one month before it engulfs downtown Cape in waves of sound.

Her reasons are understandable. Almost since the festival's inception the event has been plagued by criticism. Organizers have burned out from the thankless job, corporate donors have dropped out. Sometimes it seems as if Ramsey and her small band of cultural warriors are the only ones who want to see the festival succeed.

But despite all the stress that comes along with the COR, Ramsey and crew are still committed to its success, still positive. And this year they promise a bigger, better festival than last year, even though that festival will never please everyone.

"With the re-organization of board members it's been a very positive change that we've gone through," Ramsey says, still smiling. "We have new members with a fresh perspective of what music is to them and their idea of what the festival should be."

This year the festival is coming off a bit of a rough patch. Last year the event was thrown together last-minute following the resignation of organizing committee chair Meg Davis. When the festival finally did come, plenty of criticism was leveled at the organizer's commitment to diversity in music and a family-friendly atmosphere.

Then came the announcement earlier this year that festival funds would be donated to create a scholarship at Southeast Missouri State University, leaving the committee with little cash to organize the event.

Ramsey said things have changed since then. There's enough cash for the festival, enough volunteer help and an even stronger commitment to making the event one that both families and beer-swilling college kids can enjoy.

"This is a music festival, but we also want it to be an arts and music festival," Ramsey says.

In addition to its three stages, dozens of vendors and musical acts in every downtown bar, the festival will include an entire area dedicated solely to family entertainment. There will even be a banner art contest for high school kids.

And like last year, no profanity or lewd acts will be allowed on the three outdoor stages.

"That is fine in their own venue, but on our own stages, outside, it's a family event," Ramsey said.

Rock Solid's shows can sometimes carry that raunch, with f-bombs dropping like beads of sweat on the dance floor. And the band has had their problems with the festival in the past -- like two years ago when their set was cut disastrously short due to equipment issues.

But Solid frontman Party Nate said his band understands the need to tone their act down.

"We can get pretty raunchy and obscene, but at the same time, we can give a clean, quality show without any of the bad language," said Nate. "When somebody says, 'Hey don't cuss,' we won't."

Despite past problems and criticism Nate still sees the festival as the best showcase for local music in the area.

"It's an open forum for the local bands."

Mike Renick likes the family atmosphere created at the COR. A perennial COR performer for the past few years, Renick said the family-friendly approach gives his buddies with kids a chance to come see the band.

"I've had conversations with people who say, 'We'd really like to come and see you guys, but it was late at night or in a bar somewhere,'" Renick said. "You can't bring the kids to a bar."

But Renick's act is much more tame than that of groups like Rock Solid.

Family or not, the COR is still a much different event than it used to be -- one that has strayed away from its original purpose, says Bob Camp.

Camp, a local musician and concert promoter, was one of the organizer of the festival's first year back in 1997. He hoped for the COR to be much bigger and better than what it has become.

At that time Camp, Fara McSpadden and Shivelbine's owner Bill Shivelbine were on the first organizing committee. Camp and McSpadden had done work on music festival before, while Shivelbine was the money man.

At that time, music downtown was infrequent at best, said Camp. The COR festival helped change that. Today you can't walk down Main Street on a weekend night without hearing the music of several bands mix together for one potent dose of noise pollution.

"We wanted to draw 10,000 people every year and make this a big festival," said Camp. The COR has never come close to that.

Camp got into a disagreement with Shivelbine, he said, and within a few years totally ended his involvement with the festival.

"Since that time it's wallowed in clique-ism," Camp says.

He expects more of the same this year, but he won't get involved.

Camp's story is one that reflects the festival over the years. People get involved, usually with good intentions, and for one reason or another they drop out of the picture.

This year's festival is a reflection of that trend. But Ramsey and her crew hope to change things.

Yes, they represent new blood infused into a 10-year-old festival that no one seems to want to take responsibility for. But they're taken up the task, and Ramsey said they expect to continue growing the festival for years to come.

Time will tell. If the COR is still around 10 years from now, then Ramsey and her crew will be proven right. But if not, it doesn't necessarily mean they were wrong.

The City of Roses Music Festival will take place Sept. 29 and 30. Here's a guide to the bands playing on outdoor stages.

Miller Lite Stage -- Themis Street


5 p.m. No Other

6 p.m. Last Day Fighting

7 p.m. Bare the Betrayal

8 p.m. Knotted Fear

9 p.m. Rock Solid

10 p.m. Fists of Phoenix


noon Minus the Star

1 p.m. Ireyerta

2 p.m. A Lesson in Tact

3 p.m. Fight Like Jane

4 p.m. Candid Nightmare

5 p.m. Falcon Drive

6 p.m. Our First Summer

7 p.m. 32 Leaves

8 p.m. The Sickle Theory

9 p.m. Emaciation

10 p.m. Drivin' Rain

Bud Light True Music Stage -- Broadway


5:15 p.m. On the Rocks

6:15 p.m. 1049

7:15 p.m. Poten-C

8:15 p.m. Lost Possum

9:15 p.m. intheclear

10:15 p.m. Catatonic


12:15 p.m. Sneath

1:15 p.m. Centerpoint

2:15 p.m. Dissonance

3:15 p.m. The False Affair

4:15 p.m. Essence of Logic

5:15 p.m. Mika Evans Project

6:15 p.m. Street Team, $T.Chuck and CT

7:15 p.m. Ninth Life

8:15 p.m. Mid-Life Crisis

9:15 p.m. Dirty 30s

10:15 p.m. Mike Renick Band

CVB/Pavestone Stage -- Convention and Visitors Bureau Parking Lot


5 p.m. SEMO Dance Ensemble

6 p.m. T.B.A.

7 p.m. Carl Banks

8 p.m. Faceless Stallions

9 p.m. MojoFilter

10 p.m. Thundertones


10 a.m. Jennifer Noble

11 a.m. Julie Walker

noon Tipping Holly

1 p.m. Dale Haskell

2 p.m. Kelly High School band

3 p.m. Darren Brooks

4 p.m. Wooden Ships

5 p.m. Stace England

6 p.m. Groove Conspiracy

7 p.m. The Melroys

8 p.m. Bruce Zimmerman

9 p.m. Flashback

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