On the Waterfront unveils top acts

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117994263627470.jpg’, ”, ”);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11799428493005.jpg’, ‘Photos courtesy of www.harmonyinmyyears.blogspot.com, www.thenewcars.com and www.yottamusic.com’, ‘(From left) Daughtry, The New Cars and the Black Crowes will headline this year’s On the Waterfront. Reserved seating for the Black Crowes and The New Cars went on sale May 19. Daughtry will go on sale June 2.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117994264524944.jpg’, ”, ”);

A platinum-selling juggernaut, a resurgent group of rockers, and one of the stalwart bands of our time are all making port at On the Waterfront this summer.

In a press conference May 17, the three acts were revealed: Daughtry, whose debut album hit the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 twice; The New Cars, featuring Todd Rundgren and original members of The Cars; and the Black Crowes, whose blues-rock albums have sold more than 19 million copies worldwide.

Reserved seating for the Black Crowes and The New Cars went on sale May 19. Daughtry will go on sale June 2.

The logo, also presented at the press conference, features a rendering of landmark downtown buildings, a smattering of signature streetlights, and the silhouette of a raucous crowd.

The festival is about more than simply bringing in top rock acts, said Becky Genoways, president and CEO of On the Waterfront, Inc. The focus is also to bring together the best in ethnic music and food—as well as helping the community.

“According to all the on-site and online surveying we’ve done, the No. 1 reason (for attendance), hands down, is to hear the music, and the other reason is for the food,” she said.

On the Waterfront, Inc., is a not-for-profit corporation, and the festival is staffed by and benefits more than 100 local non-profits. Many other festivals across the nation have food vendors who travel the country, selling food at fairs, but On the Waterfront is all local.

“It creates a great sense of community,” she said, “the volunteer spirit, a sort of ‘look at what we can accomplish together.’”

The company credo of “Community advancement through celebration” is more than just a catchy slogan—since 1986, the annual festival has generated $8.7 million for community not-for-profit organizations, she said.

According to a press release, last year’s festival generated $9 million in total economic impact, between money spent on wages of Rockford workers, state and city taxes, with $3.6 million coming from tourism spending by non-locals.

“The festival really continues year-round in the community,” Genoways said, “(it’s) furthering causes throughout the year, helping to paint buildings, or paying gas bills.”

The inaugural On the Waterfront was a celebration of Rockford’s sesquicentennial. At that time, there wasn’t much to come downtown for, Genoways said. The event was originally intended to be a one-year deal, but the city saw it was a way to bring people back downtown, after the jettison that had happened.

“It was so big with the ethnic food and the Michael Jackson impersonator that they wanted it back,” Genoways joked.

And like many other festivals across the country, OTW experienced extremely dynamic growth. The size of the event went from one to two city blocks, to 10 and 20 blocks, and finally a sprawling 30 blocks in the mid-1990s.

According to Enigma Research, almost 40 percent of OTW visitors are from out of the area, from out of state—and even overseas. One California couple has come to the event for several years running. In fact, another couple, this one from the United Kingdom, has already ordered tickets for Stars and Guitars, another On the Waterfront, Inc., event.

For Genoways, the festival is a tribute and benefit for downtown Rockford while also providing escape—and changing those familiar city streetlights into something a bit more magical.

“There’s a sense of joy and wonder,” Genoways said. “When you walk in, you don’t feel like you’re on the downtown streets anymore.”

Many people work hard in decorating, lighting, and the like to make the atmosphere as absorbing as possible.

“When we look at the festival,” she said, “we want to create an experience (where) something new happens every time you turn the corner, something you’ve never seen before.”

For more about On the Waterfront, stop by the On the Waterfront office inside Stewart Square at 308 W. State St., Suite 115, call (815) 964-4388 or visit www.onthewaterfront.com.

from the May 23-29, 2007, issue

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