By Bill Diem
Sometimes when I am out wandering the world, I think: What could Newberry do to be more attractive? This time, I am on vacation in the Big Easy, the Crescent City, NOLA, or New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s a big city, full of activity, including a jazz festival that attracts thousands of people from around the world to listen to groups like The Who and Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as local groups like the Storyville Jazz Band or the Tremé Brass Band.
Well, jazz was born here, so a jazz festival makes perfect sense, as it has for 50 years. But this town is so oriented to fun and having a good time, it can make a festival out of anything.
There is a Tomato Festival, a Front Porch Festival and the Tennessee Williams Festival. Of course, there is Mardi Gras, which starts on Jan. 6 and lasts until Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. Ask Google, and it will tell you there are 130 festivals a year here.
Newberry could probably support a tenth of that, and it already has a good start. Homecoming, for example. The annual Luce West Mackinac Fair in August. The Car Show, and the Lumberjack Festival.
I always thought that with its wonderful cinema, Newberry could have a film festival for a weekend. While there are not enough lumberjack movies to fill the theater, the theme could be Classic Westerns, something that would appeal to locals and visitors Newberry would hope to lure into town. Another old idea that still pops up sometimes is to have a rustic furniture show, with makers of cedar furniture invited to show and sell their goods. You may visit sites like homeaccents2.com/dining-room/ to get an idea.
All ideas for doing something, including things that people already do, take human effort. It’s challenging, too, because so often the same people are called on to organize different events, because they can get it done.
In between the music and the gumbo and the historic walking tours and the friendly encounters in New Orleans, this idea came to me: Newberry could have a half-day conference on how to throw a festival.
The people who have done it before (Homecoming, Fair, Lumberjack Days, etc.) would be the leaders, and the people who have ideas but don’t know how to plan a festival are the participants.
Then if some kids want to have a “Support Ukraine” event, they can learn what they need to do about making arrangements, getting publicity, and finding support.