|Greg Mebs, who recently moved to Fort Thomas, will head up a Blues Festival in 2017.|
It's official: Fort Thomas will host its first Blues Festival next year.
At November's City Council meeting Renaissance Manager and Economic Development Director Debbie Buckley approached Council with the possibility of replacing Merchants and Music in 2017 with a Blues Festival headed up by Fort Thomas resident Greg Mebs. (Because of the sesquicentennial, Fort Thomas is putting Merchants and Music on hold for a year.) Councilmembers debated the pros and cons of this idea, and in an unusual move left the decision up to Mayor Eric Haas and outgoing City Councilmember John Muller, Chair of the Finance Committee.
Then, at December's City Council meeting it was announced that the Blues Festival was approved, dedicating up to $4,009 from city coffers to co-sponsor the event.
Mayor Eric Haas said that after deliberating with Muller and City Administrative Officer Ron Dill and Finance Director Joe Ewald, he gave the green light to the festival, with some caveats.
"We looked at the costs and realized it wasn't a whole lot of money we were talking about," he said.
Haas said the decision to go forward with the festival was based on the premise that the city has chosen to provide a public event through co-sponsoring the event.
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Dill said that the commitment would be for 2017 only with future requests to be considered on a case by case basis.
"The city's interest in co-sponsoring the event is based on fulfilling the expectation of our residents for a Fall concert in Tower Park," said Dill. "This concert essentially takes the place of the Merchants & Music Festival for this year."
“There are really three types of costs when we reviewed this," said Haas. "Out of pocket costs for our personnel, loss of revenue by renting the amphitheater and mess hall and direct costs, like purchasing the tent. It’s not that expensive This could be a great event for the city without significant costs.”
Dill said that the city would participate in the following capacity:
- Providing Fort Thomas Police and Fire Departments for on-site safety coverage: $4,000
- Providing the amphitheater: $1,000
- Providing the mess hall: $1,000
- Providing general clean-up during and after the event: $40 per hour
- Reserving picnic shelters #1 and #2: $75
Muller said he asked city staff to prepare a cost estimate for all of the events the city offers to give a comparison.
Ewald said he broke cost estimates down into three categories: small, medium and large events. A small event would be on the same scale as the city's summer concert series. A medium size event would be about the size of the Fourth of July festivities at Tower Park. A large event size would compare to that of Merchants & Music or the Bluesfest.
Each event would cost $1,861, $2,641 and $4,009 respectively, which would only include personnel costs.
A more detailed cost estimate for a large size event can be found at the end of this article.
"I am more than a little pleased that we will be having the September concert tradition continue," says Councilmember Ken Bowman, who supported the idea at November's City Council meeting. "Greg Mebs will do a fantastic job of organizing and booking some high-quality talent for the event. "
Mebs says he's been in contact with some exciting talent for the event, and while things look good he's apprehensive to announce names until contracts are signed. [Fort Thomas Matters will announced the headliners as soon as we can. Stay tuned.]
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"I owned Lucille's Blues Club and have booked many national blues acts," Mebs says. Mebs also has his own band—G Miles and the Band of Helping Hands (formerly G Miles and the Hitmen).
"We have opened for headliners at the Merchants and Music Festival a number of times," Mebs says, adding that the band also has opened for Buddy Guy and Delbert McClinton, and has played at Tall Stacks, Bunbury Music Festival and many blues Festivals around the midwest.
"We have our eyes on a yearly blues/Americana festival and hopes this becomes an annual festival in Fort Thomas," Mebs says. "I recently built a home on Grand Ave. and love this community."
And although the festival is called a "blues" festival, note Mebs' use of the word "Americana." Featured acts will represent a range of music.
"While being called a 'blues festival' some of the acts that will be announced soon don't really fit into that category," Bowman says.
Proceeds from the festival will go toward a good cause.
"I am a counselor and have a company with 45 employees—27 therapists and case managers," Mebs says. "We serve high-risk kids and families with intense mental health wraparound services. The Band of Helping Hands is a nonprofit I started with a mission to build into kids, families and communities through arts, sports, etc. We are the 'band' and we host and perform at events as fundraisers. We plan on having three to four events a year with the Fort Thomas festival being the biggest."
Mebs says he played drums and guitar as a child and teen, and that music helped him through some traumatic life events. "Our mission is to pass this gift onto kids struggling with trauma," Mebs says.
Fort Thomas Matters will expand on this story in January, once the national acts have been signed.
"I have volunteered to do all that I can to help the committee make it a great event," Bowman says. "Look for some exciting announcements soon."
2017 Fort Thomas Blues Fest Proposal - Cost Estimate for Large Event Size:
- Police Department - 2 officers x $65/hr x 8 hours = $1,040
- Fire Department - - 2 officers x $65/hr x 8 hours = $1,040
- Part-time cleanup - 6 personnel x $8.50/hr x 4 hours = $204
- Tent rental - 1 - 20'x40' white frame tent = $525
- Tables - 10 - 60" round tables = $80
- Chairs - 80 - white folding chairs = $120
- 8 hours x $125/hour = $1,000