Strike up the band

Published 7:30 am Saturday, June 16, 2007

By Staff
Festival in the Park, taking place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. today on the west side of the North Carolina Estuarium, is evidence that efforts to bring festive, artistic and cultural events to downtown Washington are paying dividends.
Festival in the Park is a community-organized concert. That’s great, especially the “community-organized” part of that equation. Downtown Washington on the Waterfront and a group called Citizens for the Park are sponsors of the event. The event is being presented by the Historic Downtown Washington Merchants Association.
It’s good to see DWOW and HDWMA working together, too.
For many years, Washington residents and leaders have talked about bringing more weekend events to the city in an effort to bring more tourists, shoppers and others to the city. Washington has long had its Summer Festival, one of its signature events. The city is home to the Beaufort County Arts Council’s annual art show.
In recent years, events and activities such as Smoke on the Water, Music in the Streets, Saturday Market, Farmers Market, Pickin’ on the Pamlico have made their home in downtown Washington. It won’t be long until the Turnage Theaters Foundation begins presenting performances and programs at the rehabilitated Turnage complex.
East Carolina University will play a role in providing programs and performances at the Turnage complex. Next summer, look for a huge ECU presence there.
Last month, John Shearin, director of ECU’s School of Theatre and Dance, said his school will produce performances at the Turnage Theaters complex next summer as ECU’s McGinnis Theatre is being renovated. After that renovation is completed, Shearin said, ECU plans to put on some of its productions at the McGinnis Theatre and other productions at the Turnage complex.
Shearin said he and his artistic staff will “determine the artistic direction we want to go in here,” referring to the Turnage complex. A budget of $335,000 to $350,000 is likely for the ECU productions at the Turnage complex next summer, Shearin said.
Two other ECU employees, Stuart Aronson and Erick Green, are involved with Festival in the Park. Aronson, who wrote the outdoor drama “Blackbeard: Knight of the Black Flag,” serves as Festival in the Park’s musical director. Green, a Washington resident and an ECU professor, helped organize today’s event.
But they are not satisfied with just one concert.
The event will be held on land that has divided the community over how it should be used. Festival in the Park should bring the community together. When an event brings the community together, that event should be repeated over and over.
That’s why Festival in the Park deserves a long run.
As Diane Wood, a member of the organizing committee, contends, it’s time for people to put aside their opinions on and the politics surrounding the land where Festival in the Park will take place.
Amen, and strike up the band!