Roots 'N' Blues attendees experience minor difficulties with venue change

Monday, September 23, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:16 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 23, 2013
Jersey Weischhaus, 7, left, and her grandfather Steve Kuntz ride the ferris wheel at the 2013 Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ Festival on Sunday at Stephens Lake Park. The wheel was one of several additions to the festival for 2013, along with shaded tents and sculptures placed throughout the park.

Find more coverage of the festival on the VoxTalk blog.

COLUMBIA — Despite minor mishaps during the Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ Festival, festival-goers seemed happy with the event's new venue.

On the final day of the three-day festival, the majority of complaints about the move to Stephens Lake Park concerned the shuttle service and transportation to the park.

Anne Moore used the shuttle all weekend and said that despite some difficulty early on, it worked reasonably well.

"Friday night, the wait was very long, and I ended up sharing a taxi with three people," Moore said.

She said that it seemed easier to get to Stephens Lake Park than to leave on the shuttle system and that the service improved over the course of the weekend.

The festival had planned on using just nine school buses at the outset, said Betsy Farris, president of Thumper Entertainment. But five more were added on Saturday to accommodate an increase in attendance

Farris said the festival will likely add even more shuttles next year.

Kelly Schultz and her family took the shuttle from the Hampton Inn Columbia on Sunday morning and said it took 20 minutes to arrive at the festival.

"It's inconsistent as far as timing," event volunteer Fa'tima Miller said. "It just depends on how many people are on the bus."

Other attendees parked downtown or found spaces in neighborhoods outside of the park. Michael Warrick parked about a mile away from the entrance and said the only negative part of the weekend was transportation.

"I considered (taking the shuttle), but you always want access to your vehicle in case you want to book it early," Warrick said.

Although the move away from downtown altered event accessibility, the park has fared well with festival fans and those who live right across the street from the park entrance.

Alicia Ciolli lives on East Walnut Street, just north of the park's entrance, and said the festival has brought people in their neighborhood together. She and neighbors have barbecued in their backyards while enjoying the music traveling from the park to the neighborhood.

"I think it's great," Ciolli's neighbor Ron Echternach said. "It adds vibrance to the general feeling of the neighborhood."

The streets and city buildings of downtown once made up the festival grounds, but this weekend 49 acres of grass became the new home of the annual fall event. Echternach said the old venue doesn't compare.

"The food and everything is all in one big area, and it's all intermingled," Ciolli said. "I like that it's open. You have elbow room to dance."

Festival-goers also included those who were traveling from outside of Columbia.

This year was Tyler Mary Stewart's first time to the blues festival. The Kansas City resident said the weekend was beautiful and "you couldn't ask for anything better." She was concerned about a lack of sanitizer by the portable toilets and difficulty finding a water station but enjoyed the festival overall.

"It's a very friendly, warm, hospitable fest that I think will get bigger," Stewart said.

It's still too early to tell whether the new venue hurt attendance. Farris said that information on ticket sales weren't yet available. But festival organizers expected a lower turnout this year, according to previous Missourian reports.

Supervising editor is Edward Hart.

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Michael Williams September 23, 2013 | 9:23 a.m.

Why is the R&B festival scheduled on the same days as the Heritage Festival?

Very poor planning on someone's part, if you ask me. Why split a great crowd?

I went to the Heritage; that festival interests me more's free! Heard some great music, too, and overdosed on funnel cakes and BBQ which is not stomach-friendly at all.

Attendance at the time I was there certainly was down from past years. I'm guessing vendors don't like that much......

Was the R&B crowd picture accompanying this article reflective of their attendance, or just a lull in the activities?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz September 23, 2013 | 10:41 a.m.

Based on pictures I saw on Twitter over the weekend, I think the picture from this article was either taken between acts or it wasn't one of the "big" performers on stage.

(Report Comment)
pat fowler September 23, 2013 | 4:32 p.m.

This festival was wonderful especially Vintage Trouble, Nikki Hill, John Hiatt, Mavis Staples and Jimmy Cliff. When I reached what I thought was a long line for the shuttle on Friday night, to my surprise I was seated on a bus in 10 minutes. Logistics with moving people from place to place will always have some delay. My expectations were exceeded by the location, the music, the pace, the space, and how well we were cared for as we traveled back and forth. Yes there were lines from time to time, but they moved along. It was a relaxing, well paced, and well thought out festival. I understand news outlets go looking for the conflict first, and people are often invited to complain. However, I saw lots of happy families with kids, lots of people visiting with old friends, lots of dancing life-sized puppets who posed with us for pictures.
To the planning team and their army of volunteers, several of whom were my friends and neighbors, well done. Thank you for such a lovely weekend.

(Report Comment)

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