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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ten Years Later, Festival Remains Positive Light


The city of Fort Thomas and its very own Renaissance Board will have special reason to celebrate this September.  The Merchants and MusicFestival will be in its tenth year of bringing businesses, patrons and music together seamlessly. It goes without saying that the festival has evolved a lot over the years.  To find out just how far the Merchants and Music Festival has come in the past decade, I reached out to Debbie Buckley, the Renaissance Manager and Economic Development Director, and Ken Bowman, who was the Festival chairman for eight years.

I asked Debbie, “What was the goal for the initial festival?”

Debbie explained, When the Merchants & Music Festival began in 2003, it was something of a street festival started by Rick Warner and the Renaissance Board. The goal was to show off the Fort Thomas businesses with a backdrop of great music.”

The goal was quickly accomplished as the festival attracted more and more patrons. With the increasing number of people in attendance, safety became an issue and the festival had to be relocated to the cavalry stables in the Midway District. During this era, Ken Bowman was named the chairman of the festival. 

In his eight years as chairman, Ken Bowman saw a lot of the headlining bands come through Fort Thomas.  Our national acts that graced the stage in my eight years were Pure Prairie League, Poco, Little River Band, Firefall, John Waite, Dave Mason, FabulousThunderbirds and the Edgar Winter Group. I have great memories from them all.”

 
Amazing turnout for the 2003 festival 
Stage outside of Warners (2003)
Edgar Winter
 Mike Reilly (PPL Bass Player and Fort Thomas native)
Fabulous Thunderbirds
Dave Mason

Ken had one memory that stood out in his mind... “I usually shuttle the talent from the hotel to the event. The year Edgar Winter was here, I was driving to the event when I noticed a huge banner that Bob Arnzen from the Olde Fort Pub hung across the exterior of the bar with huge letters saying"Welcome Edgar." Edgar was in my front seat with the rest of the band in the back. I commented to Edgar asking him to "check that out" as we drove by only to learn that he was legally blind and had very little eye site remaining. I felt pretty bad, but explained what we were looking at.” 

I am sure Mr. Winter appreciated the gesture, Mr. Arnzen.

In 2012, the decision was made to move the festival to the amphitheater in Tower Park. With its largest venue to date, the festival was able to recruit nearly 100 businesses to participate.   

Debbie explained the final move to Tower Park and those who helped make it happen. “In 2012, the decision was made to move Merchants & Music Festival to the new amphitheater.  That decision allowed us to encourage businesses from outside Fort Thomas to join us. For the first time, we had nearly 100 vendors participate. Ashli Slawter was the chairwoman and created entire teams of volunteers.  Tower Park never looked better! The Renaissance Board worked long and hard to organize the event.” 

I asked Debbie and Ken to comment on the success of the festival and how far it has come since its conception in 2003.

Debbie said, “This 10 year anniversary will be our biggest Merchants & Music Festival ever!  Our businesses will have the opportunity to introduce themselves to more people than ever for minimal cost.  We will have eight bands on two stages, the kids zone and a wine tasting tent with eleven wineries!”

Ken added, It is great to see how it has grown into a much anticipated annual event that draws so many people into our town. From the beginning, its mission was to shine a positive light on Ft. Thomas and its businesses.  With the new amphitheater and direction of Ft. Thomas Renaissance, I think that we can say 'mission accomplished'.

The Merchants and Music Festival takes place on September 28 from 2 to 11:30 pm. The event is free and will feature John Michael Montgomery as the headlining act. The beer is cold and the company is second to none! 

We will see you at the Merchantsand Music Festival!


5 comments:

  1. Ken Bowman - a great business owner for our community. Love his shop!

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  2. Totally agree. Go see him during his 25th anniversary sale going on now.

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  3. It's a pleasure to see an event that I helped to start 10 years ago continue to grow and prosper.
    I wish Debbie Buckley and all those involved a great event for this 10th Anniversary. I enjoyed the time I was involved with The Merchants and Music Festival.
    Rick Warner
    RWA Concert & Event Promotions
    rwatickets.com

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  4. I was there at the Fort Thomas veterans PTSD Clinic I couldn't believe what Fort Thomas put on what a wonderful thing Edgar Winters was playing right outside my room I came down to enjoy the festival didn't realize it was in every year thing probably one of the greatest event that I attended thank you so much

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  5. I was there at the Fort Thomas veterans PTSD Clinic I couldn't believe what Fort Thomas put on what a wonderful thing Edgar Winters was playing right outside my room I came down to enjoy the festival didn't realize it was in every year thing probably one of the greatest event that I attended thank you so much

    ReplyDelete