ST. GEORGE – Anyone hoping to get to sleep in downtown St. George before 10 p.m. Saturday may have found it somewhat challenging as We Are the Strike blasted out a blend of pop, funk, and rock at the Live United Live Music Festival at the Town Square. Heads were bobbing to the beat, feet were stomping and ultimately people were dancing in front of the stage as the Provo-based band played on and eventually brought an end to a day of music and song.
The festival was put on by United Way Dixie and a plethora of sponsors celebrating 20 years of supporting nonprofit groups in Southern Utah.
“We’re just excited to be celebrating 20 years in Dixie,” said Rebekah Pectol, executive director of United Way Dixie.
United Way Dixie helps fund various nonprofits – 17 in all – in the area that aid the community in some fashion, such as the Dove Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity and others through grants. It also aids the nonprofits with public outreach and awareness.
“We wouldn’t be in business if it weren’t for United Way,” said Terry Hawks, of The Arc of Washington County. The Arc supports individuals with development disabilities, Hawk said.
Another group supported by United Way Dixie is the Southern Utah Autism Support Group.
“It’s been great,” said Bonnie Webb, president of the group. “They’ve been very helpful, very welcoming.”
Petrol said 100 percent of the proceeds at the music festival will go to the nonprofits United Way Dixie sponsors.
One of the ways the music festival has been earning that money is through a “ball drop.” Originally, it was planned that 4,000 numbered balls would be dropped from a truck lifted up by a crane over a grassy part of the Town Square. The drop was temporarily postponed due to weather concerns, but registration remains open.
People can register at United Way Dixie’s website. Depending on where a person’s numbered ball lands, they have a chance to win the grand prize of a new car, or subsequent prizes including a pool table or $1,000.
Though no official date has been set, Pectol said the ball drop will be held in the near future. In the meantime, people can still register for the ball drop at the website for a chance to win.
Despite the rains and some of the beginning acts being canceled because of it, the festival continued as singers and bands filled the air with different genres of music. On one stage a band could play a mix of jazz and rock, and then be followed on another stage by country or folk music.
“It’s awesome to play at events and for a cause,” said Brady Bills, a guitarist for We Are the Strike.
Peter Brienholt and other musician/song-writers preceded We Are the Strike. Before he took the stage, he said he could see the Live United Live Event becoming an annual event.
“St. George is waiting for a definitive music festival,” Breinholt said. Breinholt has performed at Tuacahn Amphitheatre and other Southern Utah venues since 1997.
St. George Mayor Jon Pike said there had been similar events in the past, but nothing on the same scale as what United Way Dixie had brought together. As to the possibility of the festival becoming an annual event, he said, “That would be great … what a great benefit.”
Pike made an appearance at the music festival on behalf of the City of St. George which is a major partner of United Way Dixie.
“The City of St. George is our top partner,” Pectol said. “We wouldn’t have been able to pull this off otherwise.”
Pike later took to the stage to introduce We Are the Strike, Brienholt and others who would be the final acts of the day. While on stage, he said United Way Dixie has raised an estimated $4.5 million for local nonprofits over the last 20 years.
“This is an important event to help them help others,” he said. “I know this is going to become an annual event.”
Following Pike’s brief words was Janet Robin who opened the final block of performances for the evening. Robin comes from Los Angeles and was one of the few out-of-state musician/singers to be featured at the music festival. Her inclusion in the evening’s line up kicked the evening into high gear as she brought mesmerizing guitar playing into a torrent of rock and rhythm and blues.
Robin was followed by Sam Payne, a local favorite who previously lived in St. George and now resides in northern Utah. Payne is known as someone who has a story behind his original songs he doesn’t hesitate to share those stories with his audience. He kept to tradition Saturday night as he shared stories and songs influenced by his life and those around him.
Payne said performing for a cause like United Way Dixie – and by extension the nonprofits it supports – can help unite musical artists and audience in a way that is unique.
“A cause is a gift that the artist and the audience generate together,” he said.
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