When I first came to Lawrence, KS. in 1993 I was surprised that there wasn't a small amphitheater in a quaint park somewhere. I figured Lawrence of all places would capitalize on the well known and established music scene by making a band shell at least. When I discovered there was no city stage and no plans for one I felt like my dreams and goals could not be realized because my artistic vision involves producing large scale entertainment events to audiences in the 2-3 thousand person range minimum. As an actor at that time, it became very important for me to work to create a stage, in a park, in Lawrence, Kansas.
The reason was two-fold. First, I wanted a place large enough for my own theatre group to perform (and of course I would cast myself!). The other reason is I feel community arts and music festivals are vitaly important. I believe festivals save lives by offering hope, direction and inspiration to both the artist and the audience. Society requires a platform to share the amazing creations that artists reveal. Artists of all forms heal us, plus humans enjoy gathering in large groups for a myriad of reasons. When artists share, we grow. Sometimes this growth saves lives. Art makes life more manageable.
In my passions and struggles to create and support the creation of large outdoor events in Lawrence, I met many hard working organizers that shared a similar vision. I became aligned with many groups of volunteers. One such group was the Lawrence Sesquicentennial Commission. In 2004, with Clenece Hills as their President, this group and the four committees carrying out the work, created several major projects as part of our cities150th Birthday celebration. One of commissions major accomplishments was that and they unveiled a new city park, Sesquicentennial Point, complete with plans for an outdoor amphitheater! The Sesquicentennial Commission hosted an amazing celebration in South Park with 10,000 pieces of cake given away by HyVee. Kelley Hunt and Billy Ebeling played and the city of Lawrence received a new park. (Click below to learn about the Sesquicentennial Commission).
By the time all of this was achieved I was burned out. I took a hiatus to have a family and pursue my professional career. Deep down I wished someone would throw a festival or other events at Sesquicentennial Point (From now on called "The Point") but over the years there was only one Fourth of July celebration held out there. Long story short, I found my second wind. I mentioned this to Clenece Hills and she immediately challenged me to turn in my festival proposal to the Parks and Recreation Dept., I did, and the rest is the fest!
Here is what's next. This festival is intended to expand into a bigger fest next year and grow into a multi-day event. With enough interest we can work to get power and amenities developed. But in order for all of this to work, the opposite of: "if you build it, they will come" must happen.
I am extremely grateful to all the organizers helping with this event and to all the performing and fine artists, food trucks, vendors, sponsors, partners, volunteers and friends. We are on the verge of creating something truly amazing that we can all be proud of.
Tom Pfeiler, Producer, Great Plains Art & Music Festival
Great Plains Images and Entertainment, LLC