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Blues Fest 2000 organization key to success

May 27, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

When it comes to the planning, the Western Maryland Blues Fest sounds more like a symphony.

Every complex detail must come together at the right time to make it a success.

But when the party begins next weekend, organizers of the fifth annual event in Hagerstown hope to make it all look easy.

Organizing Saturday's street festival in Public Square poses the biggest challenge.

"You're taking over a busy thoroughfare and for a day you're going to exclude traffic," said Carl Disque, event chairman.

Traffic will be detoured around the square from midnight Friday until 9 p.m. Saturday.

Overnight, two large stages will be built and the concert area will be surrounded by 2,200 feet of fencing.

More than 2,500 chairs, 100 tables, 32 portable toilets, six large tents, food and beer vendors will require careful placement.

The monumental task of keeping track of all the details has fallen to logistics coordinator Austin Abraham, who is also the City of Hagerstown's project coordinator.

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"It's a very unique location, and it's worth all of the effort and complications. People find real excitement when they're in the square downtown," Abraham said.

Abraham stepped into the job about three weeks ago, when longtime Blues Fest coordinator Karen Giffin gave birth to her first child.

So far, the job has been fun, he said.

A committee of seasoned Blues Fest veterans, all volunteers, helped ease the expected transition.

Organizers had a couple of new tricks up their sleeves this year.

For the first time, they used a computer program to map the downtown party scene to scale so everyone and everything will be in its proper place.

Abraham and his committee of volunteers are the people who make sure there's enough police protection, the streets are cleaned before and after the event and people have a place to park and go to the bathroom.

They also take care of the entertainers.

"That's just for Saturday, and we do it all again Sunday," Disque said.

The City Park concert on Sunday is easier to set up because of its location and free admission.

But there's always one element or risk that organizers face - the weather.

In past years, organizers have mostly had the good fortune of sunshine and warm temperatures. No day has been a total washout.

But it's a risk they take every year, and one they know will affect attendance and the bottom line.

Early this week, they will scan weather forecasts and decide if they need to buy insurance against lost ticket sales. The rest, despite all their detailed planning, will be out of their control.

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