Michigan Roots Jamboree, a preview

I had occasion last night to exchange a few emails with Erik Dotzauer, the Executive Director of the Depot Town CDC, on their upcoming event in Riverside Park. Here’s our very quick, three question interview.

Mark: So, Erik, tell me about the upcoming Michigan Roots Jamboree and what you’ll be doing differently this year?

Erik: We had a few obstacles to overcome last year. As it was the inaugural festival, we had to develop a vision and culture for the event, recruit volunteers and find an effective way to market the event. We also had to compete against many established regional events and families that had travel plans during the holiday weekend. And of course the “Ypsitucky” controversy, which redirected time and effort that could have been spent planning and marketing the event.

But we learned a lot last year. And I think from a production standpoint, we did a great job of delivering a quality festival experience at an affordable price. It’s important to us to keep the focus on Michigan artists and vendors, hence another name change to The Michigan Roots Jamboree. The changes that festival goers notice will be subtle. First, the festival no longer competes against Labor Day, as we moved the event to August 6th and 7th. We’ve added more art and food vendors this year, and will feature more live art at the event. Based upon feedback from last year, we increased the size of the 2nd stage so that both stages are identical. We are also upgrading our sound and lighting from last year. Perhaps most importantly, we have put more effort and money into marketing the event this year, and hope that we can grow the event in a safe and manageable manner. But the biggest addition to the event this year is the rollout of urban camping in Frog Island Park.

Mark: Why add urban camping this time? Was it something that people were demanding last time, during the first Jamboree?

Erik: Urban camping was something that we considered last year, but the logistics and staffing needed made us reconsider. The Michigan Roots Jamboree is a family-friendly music festival, so we wanted to make sure that we could keep the environment safe and welcoming for people of all ages. We realize that most of the competing music festivals allow camping, and that it’s a big draw for our audience. The challenge was finding a way to deliver that experience in the middle of a city.

We really push to showcase area musicians and artists, and want to expose them to a larger audience. We’re selling weekend passes with camping included for $50, and hope to attract folks from a wider radius that may not be able to afford a hotel room on top of other expenses. So in one respect, it’s a value add that will expand the reach of our potential audience. But we also see urban camping as an opportunity to add a unique twist to the festival, and to give attendees an experience very different than anything they’ve done before. We expect that it will have a positive impact for local businesses, particularly restaurants and bars.

To the best of my knowledge, I don’t know of any other music festival that has attempted this before. However, this will not be an all-night party. We will have plenty of security on hand and alcohol will be prohibited in the camping area. We are also keeping the number of camping passes available to a minimum, as we plan to tread lightly the first time to make sure that we can provide a safe and fun camping experience for everyone.

Mark: Whose idea was it to create a mascot for the event?

Erik: Jambo Man is the creation of Adrienne Ziegler, who is our Creative/Marketing Director for the festival. She was looking for a fun way to connect with people while increasing awareness of the festival. The response to our mascot has been incredible! He gives us a platform that allows us to interact with the community and the marketing approach is perfectly suited for social media promotions, such as ticket giveaways. I suppose you could view him as our Travelocity Gnome, not that we’re mimicking their marketing campaign, but I see similarities in how the characters have become synonymous with the organizations they represent.

jambo_frog_t_shirt-p235167318655081845ynru_325More than anything, Jambo Man is a curiosity. He spent quite a bit of time at the Michigan Summer Beer Festival this past weekend, and people came in droves to ask why we were hauling around a 25 pound stuffed animal. It makes our job a lot easier because we’re not forcing our marketing on people, instead they are coming to us asking what this is all about. Jambo Man puts a smile on peoples faces, and that’s exactly what we want. I would imagine that Jambo Man and Puppet Mark would have quite a bit in common.

For more information on the Michigan Roots Jamboree, which is to be held in Ypsilanti on August 6 and 7, click here.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted July 28, 2010 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    I can still use a few volunteers, especialy if you are First Aid certified. One five hour shift gets you festival admission, and for two we’ll throw in camping. Contact me at volunteer4jamboreeypsi@gmail.com for more details!

  2. Karl
    Posted July 28, 2010 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    This Jambo that you’re showing is a fake. The real Jambo looks like a giant, sickly yellow turd wearing a bandanna. This is an outrage.

  3. Edward
    Posted July 28, 2010 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Will there be things for non-hippies to do?

  4. elviscostello
    Posted July 28, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    I worked last year and had a great time. I’m sad I will be out of town this year and miss it, but I hope it’s a great success.

  5. Joe Cooter
    Posted July 28, 2010 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Edward, come slam dance to Black Jake & the Carnies at 5:30 on Saturday.

  6. KK
    Posted July 28, 2010 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Have we learned nothing from the Love Parade in Germany? Do you have any idea how many young people we may lose on the tridge in the mad rush when Electric Stink begins jamming?

  7. Knox
    Posted July 28, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Why doesn’t the Shadow Art Fair have a mascot? A pooping cat perhaps. That meme seems pretty popular in SAF circles.

  8. Bob
    Posted July 28, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    The real question is, why is the festival scared of the Ypsitucky Colonels this year?
    It’s an outrage!

  9. Bob
    Posted July 28, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    At least there is no Patrick Elkins!

  10. Kim
    Posted August 5, 2011 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    It seems like odd timing, but AnnArbor.com has a story today on the future of the Depot Town Association. It sounds as though they’ve bet everything on this weekend’s Jamboree.

    What is next for the Ypsilanti’s Depot Town Association?

    For several decades the group attracted visitors to Depot Town through a variety of measures and a long list of regular festivals, events and fundraisers. In 2011, the DTA is involved in two events – including this weekend’s Michigan Roots Jamboree – even as the nonprofit records monthly losses.

    Its president, Gary McKeever, acknowledges the group is losing money, faces financial challenges and only has around $70,000 cash on hand. Financial statements show the group has been losing around $2,000 monthly since at least November.

    In 2006, the DTA created a “subsidiary” in the Depot Town Community Development Corporation. McKeever said its executive director, Erik Dotzauer, is now only full-time “when we have something for him to do.”

    Its membership, which used to number more than 200, is down to around a dozen, only four of whom appear to own businesses in Depot Town.

    With the formation of a new Depot Town Merchant’s Association that includes the bulk of the Depot Town business community promoting the area, some former members and other community leaders have wondered what the future holds for the once-strong organization.

    McKeever said the DTA will maintain its purpose of “bringing people to the area.” He also said to expect a “big change” intended to turn the organization around, but declined to elaborate.

    “We’re in the process of making some changes, but I’m not willing to discuss it right now, not until we’ve completed it in a couple months,” he said. “It’s going to be bigger this time. We’re in the process of getting it going.”

    The DTA is a non-profit formed in 1976. Its website states the organization comprises merchants, employees, friends of the community and property owners whose focus is “the vitality, enhancement and beautification of historic Depot Town.”

    According to its website, McKeever is the DTA’s current president, Ruth Ann Jamnick is the treasurer, Sandee French is the secretary and Merrill Guerra is vice-president.

    The group used to promote Depot Town through multiple channels. It launched the ElvisFest, created a Depot Town Historic Foundation to raise money and started a Depot Town Association Merchants Committee among numerous other efforts. McKeever said the organization also used to promote Depot Town via newspaper ads, billboards, radio, television and the Depot Town Rag.

    But he said promoting the area with the merchants had become a losing proposition because business owners weren’t happy with how the promotions would work.

    “Periodically, the merchants would say ‘We need to do something,’ and it would all come together,” he said. “Then they would get all hot and bothered and all of a sudden it’s like ‘I’m going back to my store’ and everything would die. The DTA always footed the bill, although (the merchants) did their share, we covered the loss.”

    When asked about the membership dwindling by almost 200, McKeever replied that “people have gone off and done other things.”

    “They didn’t want to go the direction the DTA is going and that’s fine,” McKeever said.

    So what is the direction of the DTA? McKeever said the organization is involved in two promotional efforts this year. One is the “Pianos ‘Round Town.” Pianos are placed on the street around Ypsilanti’s downtown districts for several weeks and people can stop and play them throughout the day.

    The other is the Michigan Roots Jamboree, a Riverside Park music festival happening August 5-6. The Jamboree was created and is managed by the CDC. According to what Dotzauer told AnnArbor.com in November, the event made several thousand dollars last year, though he expects it to have a breakout year by the time it’s done this weekend.
    McKeever said the Jamboree and Dotzauer’s salary accounts for the bulk of the DTA and CDC’s expenditures. Financial reports show $3,333 for “director’s expenses.”

    The group also reported $70,000 cash on hand. McKeever said that figure is down from previous years though he wouldn’t say how much money the DTA had in its prime. According to DTA financial reports, those numbers are down $18,000 since last November, though some expenditures can likely be attributed to Jamboree costs that will be recouped.

    “We are spending more than we are bringing in,” McKeever said when asked about the organization continuously losing money.

    “We’re putting a lot of our money into the Jamboree,” he later added. “Hopefully that will respond with some income. It’s a gamble like anything like that is a gamble, so you have to just wait and see.”

    Tom Dodd is a former DTA president who has vocally questioned the DTA’s financial management and where its money is spent. Dodd, a lifetime member of the DTA, said he frequently asks the group’s officers where funds go, but has not received an answer.

    “When you don’t show us we become very suspicious,” he said. “I have a whole lot of question marks floating over my head.”

    The CDC was created in 2006 to help fundraise and capture grants for economic development. McKeever said the CDC hasn’t been as successful as the DTA originally hoped, which he attributed to the bad economy and opposition from City Council.
    “We’ve been thwarted by those who don’t want us to do anything,” he said, specifically naming council members Brian Robb and Pete Murdock. Murdock and Robb declined to comment.

    But he added the CDC and DTA leadership are “putting their heads together at this very minute” and will soon be doing more than Pianos Around Town and the Jamboree.

    “No, we’re not doing anything exciting, but that’s not going to be true for very long,” McKeever said.


One Trackback

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Maynard and Dree Ziegler, Roots Jamboree. Roots Jamboree said: Thanks to @MarkMaynard for this preview of the #Michigan Roots Jamboree in #Ypsi on Aug. 6 & 7! http://bit.ly/brGrZ9 […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


BUY LOCAL... or shop at Amazon through this link Banner Initiative Cherewick 2