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Garrett pursues folk festival in Madison

 

(May 2005)

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Don Ward

Madison’s festival guru Jeff Garrett is about to pull off another community wide production. The man who brought you the Madison Ribberfest and the chamber’s Soup, Stew Chili & Brew is now going for a hat trick by staging yet another event designed to bring a whole new category of music and entertainment fans to the riverfront.
Over the past few months, he’s gathered his loyal crew of volunteers from Ribberfest and elsewhere to devise a plan that will help fill a festival scheduling void in Madison’s spring calendar. The group has targeted May 20-21, 2006, as the date for the inaugural Ohio River Valley Folk Festival. And if it goes anything like Garrett’s previous creations, this one will likely become just as successful as the others.
Garrett’s group of festival soldiers began meeting in January to bounce around ideas and are busy planning a new festival for next year that will take place in the spring and invite a whole new category of visitors to gather on the riverfront. They hope to attract a wide range of folk talent, including a “headliner” act for Saturday night. In addition to music, the event would include food, crafts, storytellers, historical speakers and activities to celebrate the area’s river history.

1971 Miss Madison Team

Photo by Don Ward

Jeff Garrett is up to his old tricks again by creating a third festival for Madison.

“We hope to be able to afford to bring in an act that is well known name in the folk music industry,” said Garrett. “We’re very happy with the turnout at the meetings, and more and more people are coming all the time. We want this to be something different for Madison.”
Garrett also serves as executive director of the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce, but his involvement in planning this new event is separate from his duties with the chamber.
With the new focus on traditional, Celtic and folk-related activities, entertainment and events, many new faces are appearing at the meetings. Some who live in the region have long been part of folk festivals as far away as Florida.
For instance, Stasia Wiseman of Vevay, Ind., has attended and performed in many such events throughout the country. Others in outlying areas have been contacted about their expertise and knowledge of planning such an event.
Garrett says he is hoping to tap into this talent and energy to pull off yet another successful tourism event that could someday grow on par with Ribberfest.
Garrett pitched the idea to the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau board at its March meeting, and the board voted to oversee the project and serve as its financial and non-profit umbrella organization.
“I think it’s great, and I hope the community will support it like they do our other events,” said Linda Lytle, the tourism office’s executive director. She has been attending the folk festival meetings since January.
“It would be nice to have an event to help us kick off the season at that time of the year, and Jeff seems to have done a lot of research to show there’s a market out there for this type of festival.”
Garrett is now determining a budget needed to stage the event and hire the talent to perform there. He already has the backing of the Rivers Institute at Hanover College, which has signed on to be a partner and provide financial assistance. Other companies are being contacted about sponsorship.
At the group’s April 27 meeting, committees were formed and committee heads named, Garrett said. But more volunteers are needed. Anyone wishing to become involved may attend future meetings, which are scheduled for 5 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at the Venture Out Business Center, 975 Industrial Dr., Madison. For questions, call Garrett at (812) 265-3135, ext. 255.

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: Don@RoundAboutMadison.com.

 

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