Try to imagine what it would be like to plan the first of what will become an annual event and what it implies. There’s a whole community riding on it, hoping it will be successful, for obvious reasons.
What kind of crazy people would undertake such a thing? Hello? Have you met Kiaralinda, Todd Ramquist, and Heather Richardson? It wasn’t enough to take a seed of an idea for a Community Center for the Arts and actually make it grow to fruition with fund raisers and hard work. No. They had to go totally over the edge and decide that an annual Singer/Songwriter Festival would be a good idea as well. And not just any festival, a FIRST Annual festival. That means there will be one every year!
Am I belaboring that point too much?
When I told my daughter, who’s been a road wrangler for bands for many years, I detected a note of concern in her voice. Mommy, do they KNOW what a big concert event entails? Do they understand the challenges? I told her that in all the years I’ve known K. and T., fear of failure was not something they ever expressed when taking on a project. Kristin conceded that if anyone could pull it off, she supposed it would be them. That’s something coming from my world-class cynic.
Yet, projects like this, that will potentially put Safety Harbor in good company with Austin, Texas and Newport, Rhode Island, and locally, St. Pete and Clearwater, can’t happen without help … lots of help. It takes a village, as they say. Safety Harbor merchants have been up to the challenge and have contributed in major ways. So have businesses from neighboring communities, friends, and friends of friends from all over the bay area, and even the country.
As we come down to the wire, there has been the very complex task of volunteer organization and fine-tuning by the very capable Julia Linn. Volunteers had to volunteer to help with volunteers for Pete’s sake. There is beer and wine to sell, crowds to manage, tickets to sell, musicians to feed and house, set ups, and tear downs, gift bags to make, flyers and posters to post, phone calls and emails to deal with. There’s a budget to manage. These things, ladies and gentlemen, are just the tip of the iceberg. But this ain’t the Titanic. Nosirrreeebob.
I recently went at Dawn and Patrick’s Whistlestop where the volunteer hosts were meeting to pick up the artist gift bags for the musicians who would be staying in their homes. It’s a big deal to assure that these very talented people feel welcome. The gift bags were a labor of love from businesses in the community who donated goods and services. Christina and Randy Kautz took on the gift bag challenge, right down to the spreadsheets.
I asked Janet Lee and Brian Stinson, one of the host families, what they look forward to when they open their home to the band Callahan. Janet Lee was especially excited about the impact it will have on the whole community. She wants them to feel safe and relaxed while they’re there. “I just want them to be in a good, safe place so that they can be inspired to do what they do best, their art.” Plus, she really loves the stage pass she gets for being a host. It is pretty cool. All the art bags have slick stage passes for the musicians and host families.
Bobbie Dusenberry is no stranger to having a house full of people. She and Bill have an annual party that usually results in sleep-overs. She’s also no stranger to volunteering since she fills in on and off the air at WMNF 88.5 FM. (The best little radio station to the left of the dial.) She and Bill will be hosting a husband and wife duo called Patchouli, from Madison, Wisconsin, as well as another duo who go by the name of Granville Automatic from Atlanta. I asked if she’d been in touch with any of the artists. She’d talked to Julie of Patchouli, who is a vegan. Her husband Bruce eats meat. So Bobbie plans to make vegetable lasagna for them. Her home is pet-free, which is important. Many of the artists are allergic to pet hair. There are so many things to consider when opening one’s home for an event such as this, so the logistics of matching the best host house for all the different artists proved to be challenging.
Cyndy Von Haden Peer and her husband will actually have family there at the same time, with a new four month old grand-baby. She’s excited to be hosting Barrett Smith and his wife Nicole. “We want to impart the same welcoming feeling that we experienced when we first moved here and got to know the SHAMc collective of people. We want them to feel as connected to the people here as we feel we are. I’m actually writing a letter to them to let them know a little about us.” Cyndy confided. “I hope I don’t ramble on too long in it though!”
The gift bags were quite a project too. First, there were lots of phone calls and visits to various businesses in the bay area to see if they would contribute to them. (Think a sort of Welcome Wagon for hip people.) Almost everyone was willing and happy to contribute gift certificates for goods and services, beer cozies, insulated mugs, toiletries, pieces of art, and even a paper maraca from Earthbound Trading. Todd and Kiaralindaeven made their famous wire hearts for each one.
Who’s in the bag? I’ll tell you who. (I was tempted to grab one and run…) Calm Community Acupuncture, Safety Harbor Dentistry, Safety Harbor Optical, Seadog Cottages, Courtyard Marriott of Oldsmar, Earthbound Trading, WMNF, Living Social, Pilot Moon Films, Fleur de Lis, 8th Avenue Pub, Brady’s BBQ, Carmel’s, Destination Magazine, Kelly’s Dunedin, Nature’s Food Patch, Nolan’s Pub, Parts of Paris, Pizzeria Gregario, Southern Fresh, Starbucks, Sweet Ida Mae’s Bakery, Tapping the Vine, The Sandwich on Main, Tupelo’s on Fourth, Whimzeyland, and Whistlestop. WHEW!
The artists are coming to town to put beautiful music in our ears that will travel to our brains and translate into all kinds of good food for our souls. The very least we can do is make them feel comfortable and welcome. The hosts and the community will experience a perfect symbiotic relationship for several magical days the first week and weekend of April. One heart.