By all accounts, the inaugural Big Grass Bluegrass festival July 23-24 was a great success.
“We hoped to sell about 300 tickets per performance,” said Main Street Paragould Executive Director Gina Jarrett this week, “but we were ‘way over that.”
Jarrett, who also sits on the board of the Collins Theatre Foundation, had written the original grant request for $25,000 to the Paragould Advertising and Promotion Commission back in 2019 to help fund what was to have been a 2020 festival. The festival was one of many events that fell victim to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Figures made available by Collins Theatre manager Joy Robinson showed Friday’s show, in the Collins, had 425 tickets sold. The show featured the bands High Fidelity, The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band and The Cleverlys.
Robinson’s figures showed 332 tickets sold for the first Saturday show in the Collins, at 1 p.m., and another 337 for the second show, at 7 p.m. Both shows featured Breaking Grass, Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out, and Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, playing completely different sets for each of the two shows.
“It was truly incredible to see so many people come out for a Bluegrass Festival in our downtown,” Robinson said. “Our performers raved [about] the beauty and hospitality of our theatre, volunteers, and our community.”
She added that she’d heard numerous comments along the lines of “thank you for doing this,” “can’t wait for next year” and “how are you going to top this?”
“We are definitely pleased,” Robinson said. “For our very-first festival we couldn’t be happier. We loved meeting all of the people and getting to host such amazing talent.”
Both Jarrett and Robinson added they would get busy digesting all the positives and any negatives of this year’s event to try to make next year’s even better.
“We’re excited to sit down and discuss things to improve or keep the same for next year’s festival,” Robinson said.
A major goal of any event funded by the Advertising and Promotion Commission is to draw people from out of town to spend money in Paragould. And Jarrett acknowledged the festival had done just that.
“We had many, many, many visitors from out of state,” she said. Apart from local attendees, she said, were visitors from other parts of Arkansas as well as from Missouri, Tennessee, Iowa, Wisconsin, Florida, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. “That’s pretty incredible,” Jarrett said.
Jarrett said the headlining act for the event, Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, was a definite crowd-pleaser.
“She [i.e. Vincent] took requests from the audience,” she said, “she knew it was a couple of people’s birthdays and she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to them – she knows why she is where she is: it’s her fan base.”
Jarrett added that when she left the theater at 10 p.m., Vincent was still in the theater lobby, taking “selfies” with fans. And she hailed the success of the first-ever such event. “It was fabulous,” Jarrett said. “It was fabulous!”