City of Roses festival embarks on new era

Friday, September 22, 2006

The slogan for this year's City of Roses Music Festival is "Still Rockin' Cape Girardeau." But the City of Roses Music Heritage Association wants the festival to do more than just rock.

The organizers are ready to shed the festival's image as a beer-soaked rock 'n' roll party, remaking the event as something more.

The beer and rock 'n' roll will still be a major part of the festival, says COR organizer Mary Ramsey, but those who like a more relaxed atmosphere and diverse arts experience will should find activities more on par with their tastes, as well.

"It's more accommodating," Ramsey said. "When it's just a beer and rock fest, I feel like you're limiting your audiences."

Ramsey has a vision to make the festival a total arts experience that will attract families as well as young people who want the rock-show party experience. The presence of a family-friendly area at the Convention and Visitors Bureau parking lot will add to the traditional outdoor stages featuring rock acts, she said.

Using the ArtsCape festival as inspiration, Ramsey said the family area will be a place where children and adults can enjoy mellow music and participate in visual arts.

High school students will participate in a banner competition and children will be able to create their own art on the sidewalks. It's all part of re-making the festival as a diverse music and arts experience, Ramsey said.

"The beer is still there, the rock 'n' roll is still there, the heavy music is still there, but we also have some alternate areas," Ramsey said.

Since its beginning in 1997, the COR has seen many changes both in its format and in the organizers running the festival. In the beginning, the festival was a team effort with the university and had a three-day format. The festival has played host to a gospel-only Sunday, an awards banquet for musicians, Native American drummers, headliners like Dave Mason, Eddie Money and Christopher Cross and the introduction of a heavy metal stage, all under an organizing committee with changing personnel.

This year's committee is staffed by people who joined only in the past few years. All of those who work to start the festival and continue it over the years are now out of the game.

Ramsey said the new blood on the festival's organizing committee means there are new ideas ready to be tested. One of them is to make the festival a little more corporate.

Vendors will sell T-shirts, guitar picks, drum sticks and stuffed animals with the COR logo on them. Vendors will also sell water bottles with the festival logo.

Corporate sponsorship has also returned, with some local companies attaching their names to the outdoor stages, and others contributing financially or through in-kind donations.

Ramsey said getting business involved helps lend legitimacy to the event.

"Whether it be a financial contribution or in-kind, everybody has come together, at least everybody we've talked to, to ensure a successful event," Ramsey said. "It just seems that even the businesses in town can see the benefit of having this festival, and they want to be involved."

But the COR isn't about corporation, it's about music. Kirby Ray, frontman of local metal band Emaciation, volunteers his time every year to book bands for the festival. Ray says the diversity of this year's COR is better than any year he's witnessed, which in his opinion makes the festival better than any other year.

This year music fans can listen to emo, punk, rock, blues, jazz, folk and metal. And for the first time hip-hop will have a significant presence in the line-up, with local rapper Poten-C and St. Louis hip-hoppers Street Team, $t. Chuck and CT.

In addition to the three stages, downtown bars will book their own acts.

Ray said the festival is the best showcase for local bands, an aspect of the festival that has been much-maligned.

"A lot of festivals don't even have local bands," said Ray. "To me it's a plus, a festival that features all-local talent."

Some acts have dropped out of the original line-up, Ray said, but others have been added, like Andy Tanas, former bassist of Black Oak Arkansas and Krokus, who will take the stage on Saturday.

Festival organizers hope the musical diversity will combine with artistic diversity this year to set a course for future COR festivals.

"I want this to be a big festival, I want people to come down to the festival, but if we're going to get them down there, we're going to have to give them something to do, something to look at, something to enjoy, something that will make them want to come back," said Ramsey.

335-6611, extension 182

Want to go?

* What: City of Roses Music Festival

* When: Sept. 29 and 30

* Where: Downtown Cape Girardeau

* Info:

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