Wrapping up Columbia's Roots 'N' Blues

Monday, September 24, 2012 | 4:52 p.m. CDT; updated 5:57 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 24, 2012
City of Columbia employee Colin Gallagher moves picnic tables from Peace Park onto a trailer Monday morning. The picnic benches were left over from the Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ Festival that took place in downtown Columbia on Friday and Saturday.

COLUMBIA — After the aroma of barbecue and the sounds of wailing guitars ended at 11:30 p.m. Saturday, workers with the sixth annual Roots 'N’ Blues 'N' BBQ Festival quickly began breaking down stages and cleaning up streets.

Betsy Farris, one of two full-time employees with Roots 'N’ Blues, said the festival would have been impossible without those volunteers, the city of Columbia and MU. 

Farris said more than 600 volunteers helped set up, operate and break down the festival.

The exact number of people who attended this year’s festival won’t be available until later this week, but workers had to push back a fence to accommodate the crowd during the Al Green concert, Farris said.

“I was getting claustrophobic, so I left to watch Sam Bush,” said MU senior Nolan Walla.

Farris said that Roots 'N’ Blues added several new elements to shows this year, such as a screen in Peace Park, which helped fans see the artists better.

"The back portion of the crowd could really enjoy the performance in a meaningful way," she said.

The festival also hosted Blues in the Schools, a musical education program that strives to encourage appreciation for blues music and the history of blues in Columbia elementary school students. Eight elementary schools participated.

“These types of programs promote creative thinking," Farris said. "You have to promote creativity in our kids. It’s a wonderful program to see."

Organizers also collaborated with the city and artists to create and display art installations downtown. Among the pieces were lights that hung from trees, a giant guitar pick, the Blues Walk of Art and the Storm Drain Art project, which sought to promote cleaner storm drains.

“It’s something that helps enhance the experience for the fans,” Farris said.

Farris said that she didn’t get many complaints about the price of tickets, which were $55 for a one-day pass and $75 for a two-day pass.

“When you’re seeing 29 artists across three stages with a ticket price of $75, it works out to be about $2.50 per artist," Farris said. "So, it’s really a value.”

Planning next year’s Roots 'N’ Blues festival will begin in November.

Farris said organizers don’t yet know who will be playing next year, but they've had a wish list since the first festival, and many of those artists have already played Peace Park in the last six years. 

“It’s really cool to see what’s happening," Farris said. "When the artists are reaching out to you and want to be a part of the festival, that’s magical.”

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