*** This story appeared June 10, 2010 in the Bristol Herald Courier. ***
BRISTOL, Tenn. – City resident Carol Bannish purchased tickets and a poster for this fall's Rhythm & Roots Reunion on Wednesday, 100 days before the 10th annual music festival begins.
Bannish, who stopped by the festival's Sixth Street office, was among the latest to buy advance tickets for the Sept. 17-19 event, Executive Director Leah Ross said.
"We're well ahead in ticket sales compared to last year – at least 25 percent," Ross said. "We've sold tickets to people in 11 states so far, plus Australia, England and Sweden. The tour group from Sweden that was here last year is coming back for the whole festival and this time they're bringing 30 people."
Ticket sales have been "very steady" this spring, with an average of "three or four online" orders daily. Many are trying to take advantage of a price discount that ends June 30, when three-day tickets go from the current $35 to $40, Ross said.
In addition to tickets, sales of commemorative posters and sets of note cards depicting the festival's 10 posters have been brisk, Ross said. Festival officials also are expecting a shipment of event shirts in the near future.
Corporate sponsorship remains near the same level as last year, Ross said.
"We've lost some sponsors, but we've gained some, so we're very encouraged for this economy," Ross said.
The event, which unfolds on outdoor stages in the middle of downtown streets and inside restaurants and bars, offers an eclectic roots music tribute to the Twin City's heritage of country and bluegrass music. Bristol is designated as the birthplace of country music for a series of 1927 recordings that launched the careers of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, but 1950s-era local radio programs also served as a springboard for the careers of such bluegrass legends as the Stanley Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs and Jim & Jesse McReynolds.
This year's festival lineup of about 150 artists includes Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Del McCoury, Blue Highway, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Darrell Scott, Dr. Dog and John Anderson. In recent weeks, organizers have added Joe Diffie, the Felice Brothers and the Drive-By Truckers to the schedule.
"We've gotten a couple of comments about not having as many local and regional acts, but that's not the case," Ross said. "We've gotten a lot of new faces who haven't gotten to play the festival before and some old favorites. About 20 percent of the lineup is local and regional acts."
A number of special promotions are being developed to mark the 10th anniversary, including an expanded children's day and an online contest for fans, festival Marketing Director Charlene Tipton Baker said.
"We're giving away a prize package trip for four with accommodations, enough gift certificates from downtown restaurants so they won't have to buy anything to eat, T-shirts and a guitar signed by festival artists," Tipton Baker said.
Organizers also plan to conduct a contest for downtown merchants who decorate their windows in advance of the festival, Tipton Baker said.
"We're organizing a window decorating contest and will offer first-, second- and third-place cash prizes. They'll be voted on by the public, through the Rhythm & Roots website," Tipton Baker said.
Materials will be mailed out soon and organizers hope displays will be done in August, prior to the Food City Family Race Night in downtown Bristol, she said.
While this year's festival is more than three months away, some acts have already been booked for 2011 and volunteers have already invested substantial hours preparing for this year's event, Ross said.
"The strength of this festival is our volunteers and the amount of their free time they donate," Tipton Baker said. "I've never seen another organization whose board works so hard to make it a success."