Take note city planners. The secret to a successful outdoor festival seems obvious in hindsight. But the City of Plano has created the example for all to follow. The formula is simple. All it takes is:
- A first class venue.
- A family friendly environment.
- Great weather.
- A liberal and inviting attitude.
- The best bands in town.
According to the promoter, the City of Plano reports that “300 to 400 people were turned away because they were at full capacity.” Jim Weir also said that “the approx. total count of paid attendees and those sitting outside for free could have easily approached 1,600 to 1,700 people.” At $12 per ticket, well, you do the math.
If you read my earlier post on the Bowl Full of Blues, I was a bit surprised when I learned that the City of Plano was hosting a blues festival. But I did my part to help promote the show and secretly wished for the best. Privately, I worried that there would be another empty venue with a few hardcore blues fans and another missed opportunity. I soon learned my fears were unfounded.
The night began for my family with many questions. Our plans were to meet with some friends in Plano and head over to the amphitheater together. But my wife was sick and headed to the doctor in the morning. Based on the diagnosis, I felt there was little chance. But by the afternoon, the drugs seemed to be working and she seemed noticeably better. A few phone calls and the plan was back on. My wife made a run to Whole Foods and got snacks and dinner. I made a run to the beer store and loaded up the cooler with beer and wine. I heard that it might cool off later that night, so we packed some jackets and extra blankets. Then we were off to pickup the rest of our party.
Once we had our group together, we headed for the amphitheater in two cars. We arrived first and I went down to the box office to purchase our tickets. The line was modest. But I could already tell that attendance would be high. I was eager to get my hands on some tickets. When I reached the front of the line, I purchased tickets for my family and the man said, “ok, that’s it, I’m out.” I was about to walk away but stopped immediately. “You’re out”, I asked. Yep. He was completely out of tickets. I knew the other family we invited to the show would be arriving soon. But I couldn’t risk it. I asked the other ticket agents if they had any tickets. Only one lady had any left. I bought four more and went to find our group. If we had gotten there fifteen minutes later, we would not have gotten tickets. And the show hadn’t started yet.
We made our way down to the right side of the stage. The Oak Point Amphitheater is a gorgeous outdoor venue with a large professional stage and row after row of grassy seating areas. It is very clean and well maintained. And there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. We laid out our blankets and began to unpack the supplies and set up our little picnic.
People, when it comes to living the stereotype, we went all the way at this event. As my wife begins pulling food out of the bags and handing stuff out, I quickly realize this is not going to be your normal blues show. We’ve got two different types of fancy salsa and chips, a cheese tray, an assortment of fresh fruit, bread, fancy chicken salad, three bottles of wine and some beer for me. The challenge was getting the chicken salad on these tiny slices of foo foo bread. But hey, I had a cold beer in my hand and the show was about to start. I look over at my wife and smile. This is going to be a good night.
While we waited for the show to begin, I had a chance to take in the whole experience. As I’m sitting there eating my chicken salad and drinking a cold Land Shark Lager, our kids are playing down in the grassy area by the stage. We are surrounded by other families doing similar things. The sky is blue and the air was cool. It really was a great family experience.
This was also a prime people watching opportunity. I had already noticed several people I knew. I headed down to the side of the stage where I found many of the bands getting ready to go. There I saw the promoter, Bob Fisk, Blue Lisa, Rob Donavan, Sherman Allen, Jimmy Mac, Darrin Denney, Melinda Haggerty and David White. They all looked jazzed up and ready to go. I was so jealous, but happy at the same time that these guys and gals were going to get to play to this great crowd. There were more notables out in the crowd. I saw Roger Crisler of Crisler’s Guitar Repair, Scott Lepage and many many others. It was great to see all my friends out supporting the blues. I was in seventh heaven.
In Part II of the review, I will dive into the music and share my thoughts on the performances. I’m also collecting some great photos from shutterbug friends who were there. I’ll be sure and share those with you as well. So check back soon for Part II.
(photos courtesy of Rick Moore)