VCNB Spotlight: Lancaster Festival 2021

When the Lancaster Festival makes its return this year, things will look a little different. However, the quality of the acts, the devotion of the volunteers and the celebration of the arts will be as powerful and enthusiastic as ever. Changes were made this year to make the event safer for audiences and performers in these pandemic times after taking a year off in 2020.

With less than a month to go before the nine day event, Executive Director Deb Connell says efforts are ramping up to make this “the best show we can and keep everyone safe.”

The event is a little shorter than normal and there will be no indoor performances but the schedule is still packed with impressive performers including Lancaster’s own world class symphony orchestra and acts to appeal to any audience. World renowned guitarist Don Felder will headline the festival. The former member of The Eagles helped to develop that band’s sound, penning some of their biggest hits including “Hotel California.”

“He’s one of the best guitarists in the world. He invented the doubled necked guitar and wrote a lot of the Eagles’ music. People may not remember his name but they know his sound and they love his music,” Connell said.

Other headliners include Dancing Dream – An ABBA Tribute Band and country music group The Band Perry. There will also be performances and events at venues around town including events for children and families and an array of musical genres designed to suit every taste. For example, bluegrass group String Therapy will perform in downtown one night while another night will feature renowned jazz artists when The Byron Stripling Band take the stage with guest Bobby Floyd. “Byron Stripling is a world famous jazz musician who played with Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis and a lot of the greats. This is a big deal having him here,” she explained.

A Percussion Ensemble and a Soloist’s Spotlight will feature the talents of members of the Lancaster Festival Orchestra which is one aspect that makes this festival unique. “Our orchestra musicians come from all over the country and all over world. They are wonderful, professional musicians who are top notch in every way. They all have other opportunities to perform but they choose to come here and to spend this time with the people of Lancaster and creating beautiful music for us. We should be proud of that,” she said.

Proud indeed. Those orchestra members are hosted by local families who provide their hospitality at no cost to the musician or the festival. “Some of these musicians have been coming here for years and years. They were young professionals at the time they began and now they bring with them spouses and children. They’ve built relationships with their host families that extend beyond the festival. Some vacation together, they’ve shared weddings and births and all kinds of celebrations. So many of them have such a shared history they love each other like family,” she explained.

This is just one way that volunteers help to run the festival. There is actually a small army of volunteers who take on projects both big and small. While the festival has two full time employees and a handful of seasonal employees during the festival week, it is actually the volunteers that make the event work. “We couldn’t do it without our volunteers. There are about 400 of them. That’s what it takes to make us successful. That’s what it takes to have an event of this scale,” she said. “Everyone associated with the festival owns a piece of the festival and they love and care for it as though it were their own. We did an impact study a few years ago and found that those volunteers give about 28,000 hours of time each and every year.”

There are some changes to insure safety for all this year. For example, the orchestra will be a little smaller than its normal 63 piece size to allow for social distancing on the stage. Connell said that Conductor Gary Sheldon has carefully selected arrangements that will provide audiences the same impressive sound with fewer musicians. “People will not notice any change in the quality of the music.”

Table seating must be purchased in advance in sets of ten this year and gates will open a little later than in past years. Festival events at Ohio University – Lancaster will be smoke free this year since OUL is now a smoke-free campus.

Tickets are on sale now and Connell advises buying early to insure you can attend the events of your choice. In addition to music, there will be other events including the much anticipated Artwalk and the Festival Fair Day.

Want more information? Want to buy tickets, become a volunteer or learn about sponsor opportunities? Call 740.687.4808, email Deb at dconnell@lancasterfestival.org or visit them online at www.lancasterfestival.org. There’s a form you can fill out to become a volunteer as well as the full schedule of events and much more. Get all the latest news and information by following Lancaster Festival on Facebook

The Lancaster Festival will be held July 23 – July 31. Mark your calendars, buy those tickets and be prepared for live music!

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