Blues lovers have to pay the piper this year

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Noelle Edwards
The Rowan Blues and Jazz Festival on Oct. 10 continues an 11-year tradition. But this year the tradition will cost more.
This year’s festival costs $15 a person, and the parking lot where it takes place will be blocked off to make sure only people who have paid come in.
Eleanor Qadirah, the festival’s founder, said police officers help every year in maintaining order, but this year extra officers will be on hand to help set up the enclosures and keep people from standing on the street and listening without buying a wristband.
The system isn’t foolproof. Of course, people can hear the music as they walk through downtown, drive with their windows open or sit on their front porches, if they live nearby.
That’s nothing new, though, Qadirah said. People who are older or have prior commitments catch parts of the festival from their porches every year.
People could even find a place, such as the library lawn or a parking lot nearby, to sit and listen.
Qadirah said vendors’ carts will block the view of people not within the enclosure. She said there’s just something about seeing the musicians play, especially the young members of Homemade Jamz, one of the festival’s most popular groups.
Come this year, she said, because the group is too expensive to bring back in the future unless the festival’s budget expands.
In the past, the Blues and Jazz Festival has been free, an invitation for blues lovers from all around to come check out Salisbury, hear several blues groups and eat some barbecue.
Qadirah said sponsors have made free admission possible in years past, but this year they didn’t give as much money as they normally do. She said the economy is partly to blame, though she said many of the festival’s normal sponsors continue to fund other activities in town.
Qadirah tried applying for city grants to fund the festival instead, but she didn’t win anything.
“Music is one of the most important things,” she said, “because it reaches everyone.”
But the music will continue, at least this year, and those in attendance will pay for it. Qadirah hopes the $15 a person cost will cover expenses and leave something left over to donate to Relay for Life.
Tickets in advance are only $12, but Qadirah said no one has jumped at that yet. She said she thinks most people expect to be able to get in free at the gate somehow or are just in disbelief they would have to pay.
“Unfortunately, people think bands are free,” she said.
But she said that’s even less the case this year than in the past because many musicians have lost their primary jobs and are having to charge more to pay their own bills.
When it comes right down to it, she doesn’t think the admission charge will hurt attendance very much. What could hurt is the slew of other activities going on that day, but she said the wristband system she’s using to keep track of who paid will let people come and go from the festival.
That way someone could come early in the day, listen to a group or two play, go participate in some of OctoberTour, and come back to the festival that night.
The wristbands also put people in the running for doorprizes.
Qadirah would like to make the festival free again in the future, but that all depends on the financial aspect.
Besides, she said, people sometimes appreciate things more when they have to pay for them.
“I kept saying, ‘One day you’ll be paying for this festival,’ ” she said.
And on Oct. 10, that day will come.