City LifeNew Tunes for Old Pittsburgh | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

City Life
New Tunes for Old Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh should be unwrapping a Labor Day weekend music festival for its 250th birthday party in 2008.


"Every major city has a specifically music-only festival that draws in an enormous amount of economic impact," says Ryan Walsh, program director for the Coro Center for Civic Leadership. While events such as the Three Rivers Arts Festival typically include music, Walsh says that a music-only fest would serve a unique niche.


"We're hoping to skew younger," he says. "We're trying to figure out how to engage the collegiate population."


Walsh and several volunteers have developed a survey, and will be traveling to various music festivals nationwide ... including the Detroit Electronic Music Festival and Tennessee-based Bonnaroo.

Nice work if you can get it, right?


"We're not going to be hanging out with Radiohead at Bonnaroo," Walsh promises. "We're going to be handing out surveys."


The idea is to poll festival-goers and quiz organizers and local governments on how the concerts came to be, and how cities make the most of their economic impact. Organizers also hope to get local data on what Pittsburghers would like to see, offering surveys on-line and passing them out at Three Rivers Arts Festival and other local music events.


"A lot of the most successful festivals grew up organically," says Matt Hannigan, co-founder of the Sprout Fund, a local nonprofit arts grantmaker. "No one's gone out and found out what do you need to do to raise one up from scratch." To help with that, Sprout has granted the project about $7,000 for administering the surveys. "Some of the work they're doing in visiting other cities is seeing how does a city really capture what's going on to yield the most effective results."


Additional support has been pledged by a somewhat less likely source. The Allegheny Conference on Community Development, a notably arrhythmic assemblage of local business leaders, has committed up to $5,000 mostly to reimburse volunteers' travel expenses.

"A lot of what's going on with Pittsburgh 250 has been kicking the tires and seeing if it can work," says Bill Flanagan, executive director for Pittsburgh 250 and executive vice president with ACCD. "We don't want to duplicate things that are already going on."


Flanagan says there was some concern that this new festival could step on the toes of the Three Rivers Arts Festival, but Walsh and the Sprout Fund are convinced that a music-only event will be significantly singular.


"We want to bring folks from traditionally black communities as well as the Shadysides and Squirrel Hills of the world," says Walsh. "Whatever we can do to most engage the city, and not just Downtown, we can do."


See the Pittsburgh 250 blog: To volunteer, contact

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