Life is a festival
Preparing for the annual Chico World Music Festival
Recently, I asked Dan DeWayne, the driving force behind the upcoming Chico World Music Festival, how soon after one festival he begins working on the next: “We are always working on the next festival and have even begun looking at events for 2006 already,” he told me.
He began looking at neo-swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, the first band that he confirmed for this year’s CWMF in the summer of 2003.
DeWayne is director of Chico Performances/University Public Events at CSU, Chico, and co-founder (along with his wife and “partner in event production for over 20 years,” Christine Myers) of not only the CWMF, but also the very popular Strawberry Music Festival near Yosemite (since sold) and the California WorldFest in Grass Valley.
He is “always working,” he said, to create the local festival, “a mini-city"—with its indoor and outdoor stages, artisan and food booths, bathrooms (gotta have ’em!), musicians, dancers and festival goers—that appears on the Kendall Hall lawn at Chico State out of proverbial nowhere, lasts for not quite three days, and then vanishes, leaving behind only the good memories of it.
He marvels at the ephemerality of festivals: “You have to be there to experience the magic of festivals live. Twenty-four hours later, after the final note is struck, there’s nothing there!”
A lot goes into producing a festival, into making the “magic” happen. DeWayne works year-round to find and hire quality world music acts to perform at CWMF (and for Cal WorldFest, not to mention a full school year’s worth of Chico Performances programming at Chico State).
He sees it as his mission with CWMF “to bring out the best in humanity, appreciate the differences in humanity. … At a festival, you get exposed to something you never heard before. You may come to hear Mama’s Hotcakes [this author’s all-mom quartet], but I’m hoping you’ll also get acquainted with [sitarist] Habib Khan or [salsa band] Cha Cha Boom. … Duke Ellington said that there are two kinds of music, good and bad. That’s what we’re trying to do—present great music from our world.”
Besides hiring top-notch performers—past years have featured such notable round-the-world and local acts as Doc Watson and David Grisman, Spark ‘n’ Cinder, La Bottine Souriante, Paco Peña and Inti-Illimani, Mumbo Gumbo, Troika, Sharon Shannon, Perla Batalla, Susana Baca and hundreds more—DeWayne also works with a very capable and essential staff.
“I try to find great folks to work with and support them in every way I can,” DeWayne explains when asked how he manages to put on successful festivals year after year (this is the 11th for CWMF).
“You get a great group of folks and you try to make it so you’re all moving in the same direction.” Steve Ellis, technical director (sound, lights, etc.) of Laxson Auditorium; local sound engineers Bob Tolar and Dave Cowan; UPE Office Manager Sandy Miskella; Box Office Coordinator Michelle Angela; and Daran Marx Finney, UPE marketing and publicity coordinator, who coordinates all the festival’s posters, programs and media information, as well as assists in the set-up, smooth running and take-down of the festival, are all crucial team members.
The team’s captain is DeWayne’s festival manager for CWMF, Chico Performances/UPE Outreach Coordinator Dan Goodsell, whom DeWayne describes as a “very organized” person who “takes care of business well.” Goodsell and DeWayne have worked together on festivals since 1985, including Strawberry and CWMF when it was at its original location in Bidwell Park’s Cedar Grove (it moved to CSUC in 1998).
I met Goodsell and Finney at the Children’s Park playground downtown recently. They cheerfully described to me, with great pride and joy, the enormous amount of work that they do for the festival, the energetic Finney at times jumping up and gesturing to emphasize a point. Goodsell manages a zillion (almost no exaggeration!) aspects of CWMF, and Finney is his right-hand woman (Goodsell: “Daran’s strength is that she is a good problem solver"). They clearly get along well, and each pitches into the conversation seamlessly, operating together like a well-honed duo.
Goodsell, who like DeWayne is “always” working on CWMF, is responsible for recruiting the 100 or so volunteers and crew leaders, everyone from “seasoned construction workers who help with stage set-up,” to “professional beekeepers who utilize their forklifts and trucks to move staging and display items,” to nurses who run the First Aid station, to “young folks who help pick up litter.” There are also numerous food vendors and artisans and their placement at the festival to manage, plus security and the full-time job of organizing “the pick-up or delivery of virtually all staging, tents, tables, chairs, electrical needs, etc.”
Goodsell gets up at 5 a.m. on Friday, opening day of CWMF, to oversee, along with Finney, the set-up, running and “strike” (the taking down) of the festival, stopping for short lunch breaks each day and about five hours of sleep each night until the festival is over and packed up by about 9 p.m. on Sunday night. Then he heads home to have a well-earned beer or two while perusing the notes he has taken all weekend in order to make next year’s festival even better.
“Once the show begins,” Goodsell continues, “I keep a finger on the pulse of the activities, trying to anticipate needs and directing staff and crew to areas that need attention, be it trash cans that are full, ice needs at the drink booth, towels [for musicians]…”
Goodsell and Finney have walkie-talkies in order to communicate with each other at all times during the festival. Goodsell often sends Finney to cover last-minute necessary details. “I’ve driven to go get artists at the hotel room!” she announces. “They sent me to Costco one year to get more white towels for the musicians!” Of the actual festival, Finney points out, “Once it’s up and running, it’s pretty smooth. …We make it seem as effortless and seamless as possible for the audience, and if there’s a problem, we try to take care of it so that no one even notices.”
Much is made about the wealth of arts available in Chico, and without question the work that DeWayne does with Chico Performances provides some of the strongest and most successful productions available to the community. And the CWMF is probably most significant of all DeWayne’s local work, combining local and touring talent in a warm and family-friendly environment for free (only the two evening Laxson shows have cover charges). Chico might not even realize how rare a gem it has in this annual treasure.
It is the dedication and hard work of DeWayne and Goodsell and crew that make CWMF such an important and popular Chico institution. DeWayne’s heart is obviously very much in this endeavor. He speaks, eyes twinkling, of how happy he was to move the festival to the CSUC campus because it was such “a great opportunity to make the Chico World Music Festival free … more accessible for everyone. … One of the things I didn’t realize when I started doing these festivals was how important these festivals are in people’s lives. Everyone goes to festivals to celebrate differences and share their lives with one another.”
He sums up, smiling, by quoting alt-country rocker Lucinda Williams, who headlined at the recent WorldFest in Grass Valley: “Wouldn’t it be nice if the whole world was like WorldFest?”
To volunteer for CWMF, call Dan Goodsell at 898-5917 ("pay" is free entry into evening shows).