Opinion: ‘Phantom,’ JamFest must-see events for our community

As a journalism student, I’ll never forget one of my instructors telling me about the time he was assigned to interview Charles Kuralt as a young, fledgling reporter.
If I remember the story right, it wasn’t in a big city that the interview took place. It was in a in small town — over a Coke — for  a small, community newspaper. These two newsmen who I respected — one known nationally and the other whose following was considerably smaller — walked through a Q and A session and then swapped stories with one another.
What struck me about the story was that the opportunities that await cub reporters at the smallest of newspapers can be as fascinating as anything uncovered in the big city. It was one of my first clues that community journalism was a good and proper direction for me. I’m happy to report that still holds true.
Big things happen in little towns, even in places like Otsego, which gets mispronounced nearly as much as it accurately spoken.
I write this as Travis Tritt and The Marshall Tucker Band prepare to warm up the stage Friday night for the Otsego JamFest, a community festival-type event that has been expanded to two days to include these national acts.
I also write this as the Elk River Community Theatre’s and Elk River High School’s partnership to bring “Phantom of the Opera” concludes this weekend with the final showings of the production.
The show opened to rave reviews this past weekend. Elk River will be one of only three locations in Minnesota to get the rights to produce “Phantom of the Opera.”
It’s the kind of across the generations partnership we want happening in our community.
The high school and community theater have taken a big risk joining hands like this, as it costs $7,000 just to purchase the rights to put on this show. We as a community need to do our best to fill Zabee Theater for each run of this show to help take each theatrical arts program to a higher level.
The JamFest is happening thanks to a few movers and shakers in Otsego who are also sticking their necks out — namely some business owners who have banded together to help put Otsego and their businesses on the map. They have committed to creating a successful event.
Attending a “Phantom” production and attending the Otsego JamFest are a couple of ways to show your support for these efforts to better the community.
Anyone who has ever attended live theater and enjoyed it will find plenty to cast your gaze on in the production of “Phantom.”
In the case of JamFest, I’d encourage anyone who would have considered paying to see  national acts the likes of Travis Tritt or The Marshall Tucker Band in the Twin Cities during the past two decades — or even longer ago in the case of MTB fans — to attend the show. It will be worth the cost of the ticket. Plus, a successful show could lead to bigger and better things for Otsego JamFest and the entire Waterfront development.
Friday’s kickoff will be for adults, and tickets are available online at www.otsegojamfest.com and at Denny’s of Otsego, Rockwoods and Holiday Inn.
Saturday’s festival and free concerts will have something for the whole family — as  there will be a Frankensteiners car show, canoe races, a motorcycle breast cancer ride, the Ava-Inspired Walk and plenty of inflatables to tempt all ages. There will also be more music, hot air balloon rides, a dunk tank, food stands, arts and crafts and retail exhibits. Holiday Inn Wild Woods Waterpark passes will also be available for $7 from noon to 3 p.m.
The music should be good, too. High and Mighty will be back to finish off where they left off last year when a storm moved in. There will also be a Chicago tribute band (Transit Authority), Seven of Each and a Battle of the Bands.
Who knows what next year’s JamFest will bring? And who knows what the next step will be for the Elk River Community Theatre and the high school program? Your attendance at each is needed to help decide. There is a cost to not coming, but you might never know what that is. It’s hard to measure lost opportunities.
I know I wouldn’t have passed up a chance to interview Charles Kuralt. I don’t plan to miss “Phantom” or the JamFest either. — Jim Boyle, editor

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