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Columbia Missourian

LETTER: Roots 'N' Blues festival should be open to all

By Mary Hussmann
May 27, 2009 | 10:58 p.m. CDT

In September 2007, to celebrate its 150-year history “rooted” in our community, Boone County Bank officials treated all Columbians and Missourians to a one-time “Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ Festival.”

Highly-rated bands provided music, free to all. People could come and go and walk from venue to venue, experiencing not just the outstanding performances, the large friendly and orderly crowds but also the unifying experience of such a diverse audience. The public gave it a “four-star” rating.

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Last year, the festival was organized again, this time by a different sponsor. While heavily subsidized by the City of Columbia, the festival remained free. Once again, the public hailed it as fun, positive and successful. The press reported comment after comment describing it as a uniting celebration that welcomed all, regardless of a person’s economic status.  

Now Thumper Entertainment has asked the City Council, in June, to pass an “operational agreement” that will include charging admission fees of $10 to $15 per person to hear the popular blues music. Additional contract requests of money and/or subsidies to cover security, promotion, transportation, parking, set-up/clean up, etc. have not been made public.

I’ve called the council members and asked them to oppose these admission fees. Bottom line: If the council approves the admission fees, Columbia taxpayers should not directly or in-kind subsidize this newly admission-restricted private-for-profit event.  

If the admission charge is allowed, those who can afford it will enter the paid-admission areas and enjoy the blues. But many Columbians are concerned the fee would spoil the unique nature of the event — the welcoming positive and inclusive nature of the 2007 and 2008 festivals. It would no longer be a special occasion shared and enjoyed by all wanting to attend — just by those able to pay. …. Now that’s the blues.