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Mile of Music starts on high note

Businesses embrace idea of Appleton music festival

May 13, 2013
 
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Mile of Music

Facts: Mile of Music takes place Aug. 8-11 in downtown Appleton. It’s a music festival at multiple venues that showcases singer-songwriters, bands and musicians who play original work. Many performances will be free; headline shows require tickets.
Online: www.mileofmusic.com; Mile of Music on Facebook; Twitter @MileOfMusicFest
Proceeds: Proceeds from the festival will be divided between two new funds: Mile of Music Education Fund, which supports musical opportunities within Appleton public schools; and Creative Downtown Fund, which will provide seed money for creative projects in downtown Appleton.
Tickets: Admission for Mile of Music performances will be broken down into three categories. Tickets are expected to go on sale the week of May 20.
• VIP passes, $100 each, provide access to one of the two Lawrence Memorial Chapel headlining shows, two of the featured second-tier shows and a number of other special VIP-only events such as meet-and-greets and panel discussions.
• Individual tickets for headlining shows range from $20 to $30 and featured shows cost $10 to $20.
• All other performances will be free.
To receive updates on ticket information, send name and address to VIPtickets@mileofmusic.com.
Partnerships: One presenting partnership for the entire festival is available for $30,000. Other levels of partnerships and sponsorships range from $1,000 to $15,000. Contact Dave Willems (dave@willemsmarketing.com) or Nathan Litt (nathan@willemsmarketing.com) for information.
To volunteer: To become a Mile of Music volunteer, email your name and contact information to volunteer@mileofmusic.com.

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APPLETON — If national recording artist Cory Chisel walked into your business and pitched an idea so cool it gave you chills, would you volunteer to help?

Forty business owners told Chisel they wanted to be a part of Mile of Music, a new festival in downtown Appleton, before the Fox Valley native unveiled plans last week for the four-day inaugural event. Chisel made the rounds to Appleton businesses with festival co-organizer Dave Willems of Willems Marketing.

“I have not had anyone say no yet,” Chisel said. “We’ve had no shortage of partners. ... We wanted to make sure that every person who was interested in connecting their businesses had the opportunity to know us.”

Plenty of those who said yes are waiting to hear what will be asked of them.

“We don’t even know,” said Tyler Sjostrom, manager of Jim’s Place. “But if there’s something like that on the Avenue, we want to be a part. Cory is a big selling point.”

Businesses most likely will end up providing sites for live music, sponsorship money or in-kind goods and services. They’ll also be asked to contribute creative ideas.

So far, Willems said they’ve received donations or commitments for $30,000 toward their goal of raising $80,000 from businesses, organizations and individuals. The reasons why people have embraced the idea are simple, he said.

“The love of music is No. 1. That’s the draw,” Willems said. “These are original singer-songwriters and they’re singing about their struggles and they’re crafting stories. Business owners can appreciate it if they’ve seen their own struggles.”

Paying homage to Appleton

More than 80 singer-songwriters and bands will perform original music at 30-plus sites throughout the downtown and riverfront during Mile of Music. Streets will remain open and musicians — who might be local or national Grammy Award-winning legends — will play original music from indie rock and country to gospel, R&B, jazz and folk.

Chisel, who grew up in Appleton, attended public school and sang in the Appleton Boychoir, sees the festival as a way to embrace his boyhood hometown and show it off to his musician friends. The Nashville resident recently finished touring around world with singer-songwriter Norah Jones.

He wants his musician friends to drink an old-fashioned and eat at a fish fry. And he wants to give everyone the gift of music. With the exception of the top headliners and featured performances, most of the estimated 100 or more individual concerts are free, and some will be in places that haven’t hosted live music before.

“We’re even setting up in Queen Bee and The Cozzy Corner,” said Chisel, who understands the beauty of nontraditional venues after playing in South by Southwest, a longtime music festival in Austin. “I’ve played some of those and they turn out to be the most intimate ones. You’re sitting 20 feet away and there are eggs frying in the background.”

Julie Neubert, co-owner of Spats Food & Spirits, was on board when she heard about Mile of Music because the festival promotes downtown as a unique entity.

“It’s the real city, the non-chain, non-mall area,” said Neubert, whose business will be among the sites hosting live music.

A boon for downtown

The overall economic impact of the festival hasn’t been calculated yet, but it likely will be a boon for downtown retailers, restaurants and bars since August typically is a slow month for businesses.

Patti Coenen, owner of the Fox River House, immediately said yes when asked to host performances.

“Cory described it as Americana and a sampler of what we have in the Midwest. It’s to showcase local musicians who play their own music, not cover bands. That’s what we do,” she said.

Coenen, who also represents District 11 on the city council, says benefits will spread to the entire community.

“It fills the hotel rooms. People are out patronizing restaurants and shopping,” she said. “It bring people in at a time that is typically quieter. It’s a great event for the downtown area. It’s good for the city as a whole.”

Appleton Downtown Inc. will hold an event later this month to give more shop owners a chance to participate.

“Our challenge will be how do we get the retailers to find their way to connect,” said Jennifer Stephany, executive director. “How do you embrace the festival and its spirit?”

The festival received $5,000 in seed money from Octoberfest, Appleton’s signature festival that gives money out through its grants program. It’s part of the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce.

“We felt very strongly about what the Mile of Music was going to be giving back to the community, and we wanted to be part of it,” said Susan Vanden Heuvel, director of events and sponsorships at the Chamber.

For Chisel, raising money for the festival is only half the battle.

“Enthusiasm and participation and word of mouth is what we really want from the businesses — that they’re telling their customers and talking about it,” he said.

— Maureen Wallenfang: 920-993-1000, ext. 287, or mwallenfang@postcrescent.com; on Twitter @wallenfang

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