Music in the city

Saturday, September 4, 2004

When musician Bob Camp organized the first City of Roses Music Festival in 1997, rhythm and blues legend Rufus "Walkin' the Dog" Thomas headlined and corporate sponsors helped pay the bills.

The festival ran three days and included an awards banquet. The St. Louis party band Dr. Zhivegas and the Memphis Southern rock band Tora Tora were featured on the main stage, while regional bands entertained in downtown Cape Girardeau clubs. Cold October temperatures dampened attendance.

The festival has evolved substantially since then, moving back to warmer weather in September and dropping the awards banquet while placing the main stage on a barge on the Mississippi River. Eddie Money, Dave Mason and Christopher Cross have been among the other headliners. Sunday gospel music was added and then abandoned because of poor attendance.

Camp's leadership gave way to that of Bill Shivelbine, Brad Graham and Wes Wade before downtown restaurateur Dennis "Doc" Cain became the chairman last year.

Cain is co-chairman this year with Don Greenwood, and Camp is once again involved in the considerably slimmed down event to be held Sept. 24-25.

There will be no headliner or barge on the river. Three outdoor stages will be erected along Water Street, and downtown clubs will book their own bands.

The corporations are gone. Donations will be accepted instead of charging admission.

Past music festivals have been plagued by poor communication among members of the organizing committee. And the barge stage on the Mississippi was an intriguing idea that was never practical. The barge was too far away from the audience in Riverfront Park.

Cain and Greenwood have the experience and ability to run a good festival, but we hope they seek the involvement of others, particularly the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri and Southeast Missouri State University. These groups can help assure the diversity of music -- including classical and jazz -- necessary in a music festival representing Cape Girardeau.

Something other than size should distinguish the festival from the rock 'n' roll block party that occurs in downtown Cape Girardeau every other weekend of the year.

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