Festival prep shifts into high gear

Published 5:00 am Friday, August 22, 2008

With the 34th annual Ole Brook Festival occurring on Saturday,Sept. 20, the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce OleBrook Committee has switched from bi-monthly to weekly meetings tooversee the finalization of the festival’s preparations.

Committee chairman Jeff Doremus said the major work has beendone – the preparations have been ongoing since February – and thecommittee would be in constant contact for the next month toshepherd the “little things,” like double-checking utilityhookups.

“The preparations get more intense in that we just have to besure we’ve really dotted all our i’s and crossed our t’s,” he said.”If we didn’t meet on a weekly basis, there would be things wewould trying to figure out the day before the festival.”

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The “big things,” meanwhile, are pretty much set.

Doremus said planning has gone well in 2008, mostly thanks tothe large number of chamber and committee members and experiencedvolunteers who are familiar with the festival’s requirements. Hesaid the presence and planning of such experienced personnel is oneof the chief reasons why the Ole Brook Festival is expected to bebigger than ever this September.

The biggest part of the festival is undoubtedly its Christianconcert, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and wind down theevent. This year’s concert will feature Jason Gray, followed byRush of Fools and be headlined by Big Daddy Weave.

Chamber volunteer Kenny Goza expects the concert to go over wellin Brookhaven, as the lineup is drawing attention from afar.

“I think our community will really enjoy it – we’ve had a lot ofinterest from folks from Louisiana and down on the cost,” he said.”People are coming to Brookhaven to see it.”

The festival will also feature a Mid South TalentShow-sanctioned talent show, where winning contestants will havethe opportunity to advance on to higher level shows and, possibly,one day perform before a talent scout.

Chamber executive vice president Cliff Brumfield expects morethan 7,000 people to funnel into Brookhaven for the festival. Hesaid such a large number of visitors would not only make thefestival a success, but would mean increased sales for citybusinesses as the visitors roam Brookhaven throughout the day-longfestival.

“The festival provides an open house for our entire community,”Brumfield said. “It’s a great venue for us to showcase Brookhavenand Lincoln County. For a town our size, this is an outstandingfestival – one of the largest in the state. Imitation is the bestform of flattery, and that has happened – festival committees fromaround the state call to ask about our festival.”

Brumfield said this year’s installment of the festival will havemore vendors and activities than ever, with available space in thefestival’s allotted two blocks downtown in Railroad Park basicallyfilled to capacity.

Aside from plenty of commercial and non-profit food vendors, thefestival will feature arts and crafts, exhibits, pony rides and anentire Kids’ Zone – run by Just Kiddin’ of Brookhaven – which willfeature at least a dozen inflatable playpens and several of theofficial characters from Veggie Tales.

Ole Brook will also play host to the Old South Engine Club,which will have its early 20th century gas engines on display, andthe Mississippi National Guard’s rock climbing wall.

Brumfield said the festival requires an investment of between$20,000 and $25,000 each year – covered by local sponsorships andby vendor fees – to pay for the utilities, musical acts andmarketing costs.

“Marketing is a tremendous expense,” he said. “We’ve marketedthis show from Jackson to New Orleans and from Baton Rogue toMobile. And in order to maintain our sanctioned status at thetalent show, we have professional judges and we have to pay fortheir time.”

Brumfield said the chamber hopes the festival will do slightlybetter than breaking even in 2008, but does not expect greatreturns. He said the festival is not a major source of income forthe chamber.

All the festival needs is good weather in September and a fewmore volunteers. Brumfield said plenty of jobs remained thatrequire volunteers, adding that it would be a great way forstudents to fulfill the community service requirements of theirorganizations.

This year, the festival is partnered with the Lincoln CountyWildlife Expo, which will be held the night of Friday, Sept. 19 andall day Saturday, Sept. 20. The governing bodies running the twoevents have shared marketing costs and plan to support each otherthrough announcements and information at each event.

Brumfield said the partnership between the two events shouldbring even more people into the county.

“There will be plenty of activities for everyone,” he said.”We’re hoping the two will complement each other, and we think theywill.”