BoCo Music Festival is better than ever

Published 1:00 am Thursday, April 14, 2011

Vail Stewart Rumley is chairwoman of the Beaufort County Arts Council and an organizer of the BoCo Music Festival.

Live music in downtown Washington is nothing new, right? After all, we’re going on nine years of Music in the Streets ą nine years of showcasing local talent and offering local residents a Friday night’s entertainment that’s fun and free.

A few years ago, the Beaufort County Arts Council stepped up the “fun” and “free” aspect with the BoCo Music Festival. This weekend, BoCo is back and better than ever. The festival launches on Friday at Music in the Streets, with BoCo hosting award-winning singer/songwriter Mitch Barrett on stage at Respess and Main streets. Just a little further down Main Street, you’ll find Lipbone Redding at the Turnage Theater in BoCo’s kickoff concert at 8 p.m. If you’re downtown this Friday night, you won’t have to look for something to do. It will find you.

While we certainly hope to see you Friday, I really want to tell you about BoCo the following day, Saturday. Last week in a TV interview to promote BoCo, the show’s host said to me, “Nowadays, you don’t hear of anything being for free.” Her surprised comment stayed with me. Yes, BoCo is free. Live music, all day, on the waterfront. Free. Because that’s what we do at the arts council. Along with many other organizations in Washington that work tirelessly toward the same goal, the arts council makes art and entertainment accessible to everyone. And that means it’s free.

But why is it important to have arts accessible to everyone? The reason is amazingly, deceptively right in front of our noses. Art is so ingrained in our culture we don’t even recognize it’s there anymore. Crazy talk, you might say. But when you really think about it, who designed your favorite dress or the pattern in your best tie? Hmmm ╔ an artist. And who created the logo on your favorite John Deere cap? An artist. Who wrote, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony?” Yep, that would be an artist.

Walk into a grocery store and look at every single label on every package and you will see the work of an artist. On billboards, in newspapers, in architecture ą it’s not highfalutin,’ champagne-sipping, being-snooty art. It’s practical. And purposeful. And our lives would look a lot different if we weren’t surrounded by it.

This is why the arts council does what it does: to give all of us, but especially the next generation, exposure to all of the arts ą musical, theatrical, visual ą so that the landscape of our lives does not become black and white and blah.

This Saturday, BoCo won’t be blah. It can’t be blah with swashbuckling, sword-fighting pirates. It won’t be blah with hula-hoopers hooping and drummers drumming. It’s virtually impossible to be blah when we’ve got 12 hours of screamin’ blues and bluegrass with a bang, indie/rock/alternative Americana on our doorstep in Festival Park. We’ll have food, a beer garden (opens at 4:30 p.m.) and a huge tent to provide cover from sun and/or rain. We’ve got homegrown talent and bands from as far away as NYC, a jam tent and a community art project that has our local artists giving new life to an old piano as it’s painted throughout the day. Art happens, but how often do you get to watch it happen?

So, load up a blanket, a chair, some sunscreen, 10 friends and come down to the river for the BoCo Music Festival. Bring your kids. Because even if you don’t envision their future as artists, perhaps they’ll be so mystified by the gravitational and centripetal forces essential to hula-hooping they’ll grow up to be physicists instead.

More information about the BoCo Music Festival can be found at and

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