More than music

Published 11:40 pm Saturday, May 17, 2008

By Staff
If it provides nothing more than good musical entertainment and some laughs, Music in the Streets’ Beaufort County Idol will have achieved its purpose.
Chances are excellent the singing competition, which made its debut Friday night in downtown Washington, will prove a hit with area residents and visitors. The next Clay Aiken could emerge from one of the Beaufort County Idol events this Music in the Streets season. So could the next William Hung, the former “American Idol” contestant who butchered “She Bangs” with his off-key rendition in early 2004.
The Beaufort County Idol competition was born last year during a Music in the Streets event when Music in the Streets committee members were discussing ways to improve the street fair. The longer the discussion lasted, the more support developed for the local version of “American Idol.”
Jonathan Clayborne, a former music director for Music in the Streets, agreed to organize and present Beaufort County Idol. Clayborne, who has a long history of involvement with the area’s performing-arts community, believes Beaufort County Idol will prove to be a success.
Toler said eastern North Carolina has many talented singers and Beaufort County Idol will “give those folks an opportunity to shine.”
Aside from its entertainment value, Beaufort County Idol should draw more people downtown for Music in the Streets events. That should be received as good news by downtown merchants and restaurants.
Some downtown shops will benefit directly from Beaufort County Idol. The top three contestants from the Beaufort County Idol season finale will win a combined $1,000 in “Washington dollars.” Those “Washington dollars” may only be spent at a participating downtown Washington business.
After those “Washington dollars” are spent, the merchants who receive them will be reimbursed in U.S. currency. That’s $1,000 going into the tills of some downtown businesses.
Beaufort County Idol contestants likely will attract people — their family members, friends and co-workers — who have never been to Music in the Streets or downtown Washington. Those people may return to spend money in shops, eat at restaurants and visit tourist attractions throughout Washington.
The Beaufort County Arts Council and Historic Downtown Washington Merchants Association deserve credit for presenting and promoting Music in the Streets and supporting the decision to add Beaufort County Idol to its lineup. For six season, they have supported an event that draws up to 4,000 people, if not more at times, to downtown Washington for three hours on a single night each month from April through October.
It’s entertainment, but it’s also a form of economic development.