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The organizers of last year's inaugural Jamboree plan to expand the event with new features while still retaining the parts of the festival that made it successful.
Among the changes this summer will be the name, date and the addition of “urban camping.” The constants between both years will be the focus on quality music and a fun, relaxed atmosphere.
This year, the two-day Michigan Roots Jamboree will begin Aug. 6 in Riverside Park. It will feature “urban camping” in Frog Island between the two days of music.
Last year, the event was called simply The Jamboree and was held on Labor Day weekend. When the music stopped on first day last year, visitors didn't have to go home but they couldn't stay in Riverside Park.
Erik Dotzauer, executive director of the Depot Town Community Development Corporation—which puts on the event— said the simplicity of last year's name was complicated by people adding words in front of the title. He said people calling it the Ypsilanti, Riverside and Ypsi-tucky Jamboree—just to name a few—caused confusion.
“We wanted to make the name...” Dotzauer began.
Event Director Don Sicheneder finished, “...more focused on the brand of the event.
“We want spell out what we're doing,” Sicheneder said, “celebrating regional artists.”
Sicheneder said roots music is a broad term that identifies genres of music that led to the creation and adaptation of later genres popular today. He highlighted blues, jazz, bluegrass, folk and funk as some examples.
A line-up of 25 local, regional and national artists have already been listed for the event. Headliners include Ann Arbor's Macpodz, who play a psychedelic, jazz-inspired form of funk self-titled “disco-bebop;” Ohio-based Ekoostic Hookah, which use a plethora of genres to describe their sound—psychedelic, blues, funk, bluegrass, jazz and rock 'n' roll; Grand Rapids jam-rockers UV Hippo and an “infectious global groove,” Ypsilanti's own Ragbirds.
The name and date of the festival may have changed, but the most exciting development this year may be the festival's introduction of what organizers are calling “urban camping.”
Like other multi-day music festivals around the country, festival-goers will be able to pitch a tent to catch some sleep during the night instead of having to pack up and leave just to come back for more music the next day.
Instead of driving home, renting a room or finding a friend's place to crash, visitors from out of town will be able to spend the night between the two days of music right across the river from where all the action is happening. After the last band gets off the stage in Riverside Park, they can just head over the tridge to Frog Island to spend the night.
“The majority of festivals are in a field or farm,” Sicheneder said. “Generally, in the middle of nowhere.”
He said it is much easier for these festivals to offer camping due to their location and wanted to offer something similar for the Roots Jamboree. Dotzauer added that an influx of tenants for the night could have a positive impact on local business.
“We wanted to give [festival-goers] an opportunity to stay locally and experience both days of the festival and hopefully draw in some more traffic to the area,” Dotzauer said.
To help accommodate out-of-town visitors and drive some traffic to local business, organizers plan to have some hospitality booths and way-finding kiosks to list different business, what they offer and where they are located. The two suggested creating a spot in the festival where people can have food delivered from surrounding restaurants and have staff text them when the order arrives.
However, because the Michigan Roots Jamboree is in the middle of an urban environment and not a corn field, there will be obvious differences between the camping experience here in Ypsilanti and the camping experience somewhere like Rothbury, Mich.
Organizers said it would be more restrictive. For example, ground-fires can not be lit, people can not bring their own alcohol and cooking stoves may or may not be allowed. For safety, Dotzauer said security staff will be on-site all day and night. Additionally, camping spaces will be very limited.
The specifics of camping rules, regulations and the number of spaces have not been determined yet, but Dotzauer said the communication process with various city departments has been initiated and details should be made available soon.
Urban camping won't be all rules, though. A beer tent, serving local and national brews, will still be available and a third stage has been added to Frog Island to feature acoustic music at the end of the night and the beginning of the following day.
Last year, the Jamboree attracted approximately 1,800 people. This year, organizers hope bands with a larger draw and added features to the event can bring attendance up to 3,500. Sicheneder said moving the date from Labor Day weekend will help too.
“We learned a lot last year,” Sicheneder said. “We learned how to build a music festival from nothing.”
The DTCDC and event organizers spent upwards of eight months planning last year's event. This year, they said they spent the same amount of time planning, but have had more time to focus on more specific areas of improvement without having to start from scratch.
“We know what we have and what we need to tweak,” Sicheneder said.
The two gave examples of lighting up trees throughout the park, hanging local art throughout the event and improving festival merchandise as examples of smaller items they could give more attention.
The group also plans to push marketing harder through both traditional and new media outlets. While buying more printed advertising and forming partnerships with broadcasters, the group has also thought of new grass-roots, viral and social-media marketing tactics.
The event's official mascot, Jamboman, is a shining example of an out-of-the-box strategy. The yellow critter in the green cape will be all around town throughout the summer. People who follow the festival on Facebook and Twitter can get a heads-up on his upcoming location so they can take his picture. Organizers will choose the best photos and award free tickets to the event.
“If you see him, you better get his picture taken,” Sicheneder said.
There are already several pictures of Jamboman on the festival's Facebook page.
With the festival's expansion, organizers said they will be needing more volunteers to help put on the event. Last year there were 150 volunteers helping out, this year they hope for 300. Those interested in volunteering should fill out a contact form on the event's Web site.
To learn more about the festival—such as ticketing, performance or contact information—visit the Michigan Roots Jamboree's Web site by clicking here.
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