Music festival changes tunes

03/31/2014 12:19 PM

03/31/2014 12:21 PM

The non-profit that runs the ever-growing Historic Mansfield Music & Arts Festival each October will shrink its footprint this year, doing away with the big music stage and three-day shutdown of Main Street in favor of smaller, more weather-resistant venues.

With those cost savings, Discover Historic Mansfield Inc. wants to launch a series of monthly mini-events to create a steadier stream of commerce for the downtown.

“We just loved the festival, but it wasn’t paying off,” said Ann Smith, vice president of the seven-member DHM board. “We didn’t feel like we were getting a year-round benefit to do that big of a project every year.”

The new format comes with a new name for the festival -- Hot Beats & Cold Brews, previously the moniker for the four evenings of live music in downtown shops leading up to the weekend festival.

Officials said the name had become confusing, because over the years the festival had grown from a half-day community activity to a full week of three, differently named events – Hot Beats on weeknights, Wurst Fest on Friday and Historic Mansfield Music & Arts Festival on Saturday and Sunday.

“And people were going, ‘Huh?’” said DHM President Steve Cosio. “So this year it’s all one name – Hot Beats & Cold Brews.”

He said DHM has notified the city that Wurst Fest, which began as a city event, will be dropped.

“It will either be taken on by another group, or it’s just going away,” he said.

And Sunday – with its historically poor turnout – has been deleted from the schedule, too, making the festival a six-day event.

Although the eighth annual festival will lose its centerpiece stage and pricey headlining acts, music will abound. The Hot Beats performances will remain, with one tweak – the two bands scheduled each night will play at different times so patrons can attend each show.

And the big weekend acts would be replaced with more bands – Cosio hopes to have as many as four on Friday and eight on Saturday – all in intimate, Main Street settings. The hosts last year included a bridal boutique, photography studio, sandwich shop and the Mansfield Historical Museum.

He also hopes to bring back the food trucks, perhaps parking one in front of each mini-event venue – unless that hosting venue is a restaurant.

The festival’s main arts feature, the artists’ exhibit, would be among the cuts from the 2014 schedule. But elements of it likely would be featured in the planned monthly events, Cosio said. Live music also likely would be part of the series, he said, but stressed that no plans have been developed yet.

He bemoaned the festival costs, including stage, lighting, bands, barricades, generators and closing the core section of Main Street for three days.

“It’s an enormous expense,” Cosio said. He would describe the total cost only as “into six figures.”

Rain has not been a problem for the festival, other than a light sprinkle and threatening storm clouds in 2012. Cosio said they have “dodged a bullet every year for the past seven years.”

Smith agreed.

“When we had our retreat back in January, we talked about we rolled the dice for seven years,” she said. “We thought we pushed it as far as we could.”

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