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.
More 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.