MOUNT VERNON — The newly named Mount Vernon Music and Arts Festival ushered in a new era Wednesday with a logo reveal party in the packed Grand Hotel ballroom. Its organizers emphasized how the “simple” yet bold logo — the festival words etched in large font with a treble clef in the middle — showcases an All-American town that wants to be inviting, inclusive and expressive about the arts.
Festival Director Joseph Bell, a music teacher by trade, also offered descriptions such as “revitalization,” “rejuvenating” and of course, “exciting” to discuss how the festival, formerly known as the Dan Emmett Music and Arts Festival, has progressed since last summer’s event. This year’s festival — to be held Aug. 13-16 in downtown Mount Vernon — will feature a lot of new shows and activities of all kinds. The Saturday night headliner will be the Little River Band, a popular rock group from the 1970s. (A clue offered to the logo reveal audience being three words — “Happy Anniversary Baby” — sung beautifully and pulled from one of the band’s hit songs.)
“I am so excited about what we can do in this community.”
Joseph Bell, Festival Director
About 660 community members contributed to an online survey with festival re-branding comments and ideas. The synthesizing of those responses was led by members of the festival’s board of directors including Joe Rinehart, this year’s board president. The question regarding the new festival name was never in question with the survey takers.
“Hands down it came back as the Mount Vernon Music and Arts Festival,” Bell said.
Rinehart offered that the tremendously supportive music and arts appreciation community in Mount Vernon, and Knox County at large, made re-branding the festival an enjoyable undertaking.
“I think this is the earliest this (festival organizing) has ever been done,” Rinehart said.
For his part, Bell described himself as normally being quiet and reserved about life in general. But the joyous work that has gone into planning the newly-branded Mount Vernon Music and Arts Festival has involved “a tremendous” amount of input from all stakeholders, young and older alike, he offered. Bell showed emotion as he described the efforts of everyone involved to date, with still so much more to do between now and Aug. 13.
“I am genuine, and I am real, and I am incredibly passionate about the arts,” Bell said, adding soon after, “I am so excited about what we can do in this community.”
One of those things already achieved was preserving some of the festival’s past traditions with new offerings. Phil Dirt and The Dozers were booked once again to start out the festival’s big musical lineup with their traditional Thursday night show Aug. 13. The next night, Aug. 14, a brand new festival musical feature — truly combining musical arts with visual arts — will take place when ARTRAGEOUS takes the festival main stage. ARTRAGEOUS combines live music as a backdrop as artists of all ages uses their hands, and brushes, to create entirely new works of art on six large canvasses for all to see.
“We want the arts to encompass as many types of experiences as possible,” Bell said.
Bell also talked about festival ideas that are still “in the works.” They include showings such as repurposed pianos turned into sculptures, as well as repurposed chairs that can be auctioned off. Another idea is “Chalk the Block,” where professional artists put their talents to work on the street, literally, with venues such as East Vine under consideration for a chalk artist’s makeover. Yet another idea is a “Flash Mob Dance,” as has happened before in Mount Vernon when 125 people participated.
Bell also discussed the formation of a Semanon Festival Force — volunteers who would take on various tasks, such as general hosts and hostesses, survey hosts, general setup/tear-down captains, and other volunteer positions. Treasurer Heather Brayshaw mentioned the formation of a Pride and Proud Ensemble — those who have given back to the festival with financial contributions, although giving service time is also needed. Last year, about $72,000 in sponsorships were received to make the festival happen; this year, the goal is $100,000.
Last year’s festival, attended over four days by somewhere between 18,000 and 22,000 people, also took in $78,000 in concession sales from 18 vendors, she said. The festival kept a portion of those sales. Twenty downtown merchants also kept their stores open for festival goers. In addition, there were 31 exhibitors who paid $3,500 in fees to show their wares.
Brayshaw said the festival and its board wishes to be as transparent as possible with its revenue and expenditures. Asked about the main headliner show, she said a list of several musical acts was developed, and contacts made. The Charlie Daniels Band was given serious consideration, she said, but its members happened to be booked in mid-August. The Little River Band cost $40,000 to book, she said, which is about double what Lee Greenwood cost last year.
Bell said he hopes the newly re-branded Mount Vernon Music and Arts Festival will “start a renaissance” of art appreciation and cultural priority in Knox County. It is important to be inclusive of all people of all ability levels and artistic genres, he offered. That way, the festival can become “the pinnacle of arts entertainment and education that Mount Vernon and Knox County have to offer.”
“It’s our time to celebrate us, and what we’re capable of doing,” he added.
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