Old Town Executive Director Explains Festival Decision

By Patty Wetli | Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Old Town School aims to bring its summer festival action closer to its new East Building. Credit: Flickr/zenia

The decision by the Old Town School of Folk Music to replace its popular Folk & Roots Festival with Square Roots, a joint collaboration with the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce, can be linked directly to the opening of the School’s East Building back in January. “The main instigation, from our perspective, was the new facility,” explained Bau Graves, Old Town School’s executive director.

The goal, according to Graves, was to tie Old Town’s signature summer event to the new space, “to show it off as much as we can.” Where Folk & Roots took place largely in the confines of Welles Park, Square Roots, which will stretch along Lincoln Avenue from Wilson to Montrose, brings the action “right outside our doors.”

At the same time that Old Town’s leadership was rethinking Folk & Roots, they were approached by the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce with a request to use Old Town’s parking lot for a microbrew event. A light bulb went off–why not mesh the Chamber’s idea with Old Town’s festival.

“It took us awhile to work out how to put the administrative pieces together,” said Graves. “It’s been unfolding over the last two to three weeks.”

While acknowledging that the details of festival production–fees, permits, etc.–are challenging, Graves reiterated that the change in festival plans had little to do with the technical side or costs of mounting an event and everything to do with the new building. “Frankly, it was a really welcome opportunity to work with the Chamber and merchants up and down Lincoln. It all seemed positive to us.”

Though Graves wouldn’t close the door on resurrecting Folk & Roots in the future, he noted of Square Roots: “We’re trying this out to see how it goes.” Presumably, “if it goes fabulously,” Square Roots would become Old Town’s new annual event.

“As always, we’ll have a very extravagant array of performing artists,” Graves promised. “We’ll deliver what people have come to expect from Old Town.”

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  • http://twitter.com/TheeErin E!

     Does anybody at @LincolnSquareCC or @oldtownschool remember New Coke?   #Folk&Roots #FAIL

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/AALY4CYRKINH6H4ASZAORUCOZI Showsand Events

    Here’s Bau’s email if you’d like to contact him to tell him what a terrible decision this is: bgraves@oldtownschool.org

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000469757706 Monica Nikel

    I just started a online petition to bring back F&R. Please sign and share it. Thanks. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/bring-back-the-old-town-folk-and-roots-festival/

    • cowbow1

      thx for that- i sent it on.

      • David Barnett

        Are y’all going to pony up some sponsorship money? LaSalle Bank used to be a major sponsor but they are no more. As sponsorships end, it becomes harder for groups like Old Town to fund such huge events. In the current economy, I suspect new sponsorships are going to be pretty hard to find. This new festival looks like it should cost less to put on — though I expect the School would love to have new sponsors to help pay for the charge to use the street and parking lots, and the musicians, etc., etc.  I loved the Folk and Roots Festival and volunteered there every year but it cost the School a boatload of money. Hopefully, this new festival won’t be such a financial challenge.

        • treacher

          It all comes down to $$$$$. The Kriskringle Market is a perfect example. When St Mathias was in charge the artists who participated paid $175.00 for a space. This past year the North Center Kriskrigle Market was handed over the Chicago Special Events. The price to the artist went to $325.00. There are 2 big company that run ALL the summer fests in Chicago, Star Events and Special Events. Too bad. Now all the Fests are just beer blow outs with the same lame music for 20 year olds. After all they’re the ones buying all that beer. Got to make them happy. Forget the families. I have participated in these fests as an Artist selling hand made goods for the past 10 years. The Rib fest was handed over and the booth fees doubled. Same thing all over the city. What a shame.This fest will be Beer, Beer, and more Beer.!!!! That’s were they make the $$$$$$ 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jbetke Jason Betke

    Where can I park my stroller with my kids so we can listen to great music, and let the kids run around?  Where is the dance tent next to a grassy field?  Welles Park made this a special festival.  Now it’s just another street fest.   Very disappointed.  

    • cowbow1

      Its not that the school is dumping the park….. the city wants them to pay way more to rent it and pay yet even more money for the “loss of monies” from the Lincoln Ave parking meters….. or you could start a collection so your kids can run around……

  • JonHowaniec

    This is so dissapointing, the Folk & Roots festival was truly unique and was an event not to be missed. The location in Welles Park gave it a true “Festival” feel and the variety of local, national and international acts was great. I think this is a huge misstep by the OTSFM and the Chamber.

    • cowbow1

      read my reply to Jason above-

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