City gives green light for inaugural outdoor ‘Cedar Music Fest’

Composite image of families and friends enjoying Georgefest First Friday nightlife in downtown St. George, Utah, overlaid with proposed "Cedar Music Fest" logo. Georgefest photo date not specified | Georgefest photo courtesy of Emceesquare Media, Inc. Logo courtesy of Cedar Music Fest, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Following a presentation to the Cedar City Council and subsequent ironing out of some of the concerns, organizers of the inaugural “Cedar Music Fest” are moving forward with the launch of the new festival, hoping to enrich the cultural nightlife of downtown Cedar City.

Scheduled for Sept. 15, Cedar Music Fest will bring in two Seattle-based bands – folk artist Bryan John Appleby and Tomten, a Baroque pop trio – for a free outdoor concert.

Attendees at a Georgefest event, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Emceesquare Media via SUU Community and Academic Enrichment, St. George News / Cedar City News

In addition, Kinetic, a band based in Cedar City, is scheduled to provide the opening act, and other local performers, vendors and artists are being contacted to participate.

Melynda Thorpe, director of Community and Academic Enrichment at Southern Utah University, is spearheading Cedar City’s new festival.

Thorpe is no stranger to such events, having designed and launched the popular monthly Georgefest street festival in St. George in 2015, in addition to starting a similar event in Mesquite, Nevada.

Thorpe pitched the plan, along with event manager Jessica Burr, at the Cedar City Council work meeting Wednesday.

“Sept. 15 is our litmus test,” she told city officials. “We would like to launch the event and see how the community responds and gauge some of our marketing so we know what worked and what we can do differently.”

If all goes well in September, Thorpe said, organizers plan to stage the event as many as four times next year.

Performers at a Georgefest event, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Emceesquare Media via SUU Community and Academic Enrichment, St. George News / Cedar City News

Thorpe said instead of merely trying to replicate what other communities have done, she and other event committee members solicited community input and conducted research to figure out what kind of music festival would best suit Cedar City.

Previously, Cedar residents had enjoyed Groovefest, a weeklong outdoor music and arts festival staged annually at the end of June. Groovefest thrived for 15 years, but the event was discontinued in 2016 after the death of founder Tim Cretsinger.

Thorpe said the idea for the new Cedar Music Fest was hatched during early discussions with Jessica Farling, the director of Southern Utah Museum of Art, and Utah Summer Games director Pace Clarke, as well as several other members of the new event committee.

“We were saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to get people out on the street in the community coming to the downtown area?’” Thorpe told the council Wednesday. “That was the beginning of our conversations, which led to creating a high-culture event in our historic downtown.”

Thorpe cited Utah’s rich tradition of nightlife.

Melynda Thorpe and Jessica Burr answer questions from Cedar City officials during a work meeting of the City Council, Cedar City, Utah, July 18, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“When the evening started to cool off, the settlers would gather at the center of towns in Utah and dance and eat together and enjoy music,” she said. “That’s what I think we all still need in our communities today.”

After the council meeting, Thorpe elaborated by saying, “I love the vibe of historic downtown areas all over the world. Music and dancing and good food seem to belong in downtown environments, and an event like this has the ability to attract an eclectic group of visitors and local residents.”

There is an underlying educational benefit as well, Thorpe said, explaining her office’s involvement. “We feel that if an event intrigues our community culturally, they will become more interested in education.”

The first-ever Cedar Music Fest is scheduled to take place Sept. 15 in the heart of downtown Cedar City, at the site of the Farmer’s Market, on the block between Main Street and 100 West and between University Boulevard/Center Street and College Avenue. Organizers are seeking approval to close off that block of Center Street between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. the day of the festival.

Live bands will be performing on stage starting at 6 p.m. In addition, patrons will be able to purchase food from vendors and food trucks at the event, along with beer and wine at IG Winery’s tasting garden. The Farmer’s Market also will be in operation, and various street performers and artists are also expected to participate.

Performers at a Georgefest event, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Emceesquare Media via SUU Community and Academic Enrichment, St. George News / Cedar City News

Thorpe also suggested a “passport” program could be instituted to encourage patrons to visit downtown shops the evening of the festival. 

The idea, she said, is to help create an enriching and memorable experience for all involved.

“Cedar Music Fest is designed to serve as a cultural reflection of the Cedar City community and to increase patronage to downtown businesses. Additionally, the event includes components dedicated to increasing downtown foot traffic, promoting local artists and performers, drawing tourism and bringing added culture to the community,” Thorpe said during the meeting, adding that while organizers hope the inaugural event will attract at least 1,000 people, it could very easily draw double that or more.

Thorpe said the bands booked for the Sept. 15 event would be paid out of her office’s budget.

Thorpe said even with a relatively small budget, it’s possible to attract quality performers to the area.

“With Georgefest in St. George, we operated with a $2,000 a month entertainment budget and we got some good quality bands in there,” Thorpe told city officials, “and I now have a database full of those bands that enjoy coming to Southern Utah because they can hike Zion, or they’re on their way to perform in L.A. or Vegas and we’re trying to become a stop on their way.”

Although the SUU Office of Community and Academic Enrichment is taking a lead role in creating, organizing, promoting and staging the event, Thorpe noted that several other key community partners are involved, including Cedar City, Southern Utah Museum of Art, SUU Community and Alumni Relations, Cedar City Historic Downtown Economic Development Committee and the Larry H. Miller Utah Summer Games. Several former Groovefest committee members also belong to the new event committee.

Performers at a Georgefest event, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Emceesquare Media via SUU Community and Academic Enrichment, St. George News / Cedar City News

Various downtown businesses also have pledged at least $2,300 in support, and the Cedar City — Brian Head Tourism Bureau has kicked in $2,000.

Although organizers didn’t ask Cedar City for direct cash support, they did request that the city help with stage setup, event security, restroom facilities and garbage removal. City Manager Paul Bittmenn noted the requested support would still cost the city money, particularly if police officers incur overtime pay and if the city has to rent items that it doesn’t own, such as portable toilets and hand washing stations.

Thorpe told Cedar City News Friday afternoon that many of the concerns raised at Wednesday’s meeting have since been worked out, and that while additional details are still being finalized, the initial event has been given the green light by the city.

“I see this as a very good sign of support,” Thorpe said.

Burr, the event manager, said as the Cedar Music Fest draws closer, she is looking forward to working with those involved to help make it happen.

“I am excited to be working with the most amazing volunteer event committee made up of talented local musicians, event coordinators and those deeply connected to the national music scene,” Burr said. “We have put a lot of time and effort into putting this event together thus far and we can’t wait to share this with the Cedar City community.”

Those interested in working as a volunteer at the festival may contact Burr at SUU Office of Community and Academic Enrichment via telephone at 435-586-7759 or via email at jessicaburr@suu.edu.

Event details

  • What: Cedar Music Fest.
  • When: Saturday, Sept. 15, 6-10 p.m.
  • Where: The block between Main Street and 100 West and between University Boulevard/Center Street and College Avenue, Cedar City.
  • Cost: Free.

Resources

  • Southern Utah University Community and Academic Enrichment website.
  • Bryan John Appleby website.
  • Tomten website.

Email: jrichards@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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