Earlier this year, the city of Denison received the news that the Levitt Foundation, a supporter of Music on Main, would not be providing grant funding for the event this year. For the past three years, the foundation, which supports public concerts across the country, has provided $25,000 — nearly half the budget — for the annual summer concert series.
Despite this large hit to the event, the music must play on in downtown Denison.
When I spoke to Main Street Director Donna Dow about the first grant and how it would effectively double the budget for the event, I knew this was going to be the turning point for the event, and could lead to great things. As I was still slightly green when it comes to Denison, I wasn’t sure where this would lead the annual event, but just in talking with Dow, I could tell this was big news.
It led to the city hiring a booking agent to help broaden Denison’s efforts to bring in new artists and a wider range of sounds to the event. Since then, the concert series has grown in scope and the kinds of artists it can attract — including a subsequent Grammy winner and musicians who have been in the business for nearly half a century.
Even though Levitt will not be supporting the concert series this year, the city must continue to move forward with the momentum that the past three years has given the event. To let this be a major blow to the event will only set it back and make the progress it has made in recent years moot.
I’ve seen comments from our original reporting stating that there should be a push to use more local artists in the series. While there may be some places for these acts, I feel that the city can’t fall back on the same things it did prior to Levitt if it wants to make the event and downtown itself a destination.
In my time working in Denison, I’ve seen the city make strides to make downtown Denison a place where people want to be. The city has worked to attract new restaurants, new festivals and started other efforts aimed at bringing life to the town’s center. If the city cultivates what Music on Main has gained in recent years, it can become a major part of these efforts.
With the regional and touring artists that made up the series in the past few years, the draw for the event extended well beyond its normal borders. As such, the city and its businesses were exposed to a far greater audience thanks in part to the concerts.
While the immediate response might be to double back on what worked in the past, it would be a step backward instead of forward for the event and everything it has built up in recent years.
Michael Hutchins is a reporter for the Herald Democrat, covering the city of Denison. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.