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Times were tough, but the weather was worse

The history of Arts Jubilee Part 2: 1990-2000

Arts Jubilee used a number of 'tent' covers for the stage. This one was rented from a company in Maine, which created it especially for some festival concerts. The shot was taken from a ‘cherry picker’ furnished by the local cable company at the time. This was a symphony concert which honored a host of invited guests of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England, as witnessed by the many folding chairs set up near the front. Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
October 21, 2010
We began the 1990s led by David Wilson, along with Prudence Plusch and Dick Brunelle as Vice-Presidents; Mike Kirk continuing as Treasurer; Linda Walker, Secretary; and Gerry Hamel, our most recent Past-President. Directors included Dick Badger, Aggie Jansen, David Sporcic, Gayle Baker, Joe Berry, Steven Caming, Frank J. Connolly, Jr., Robert Cyr, Patrick Duffy, Patti Frasier, Richard Lord, Marilyn Miller, Barbara Sisson, Gary Tateosian, Robert Thompson, Sharon Wilson, Sydna Zeliff and Susan Wheaton Logan, with Cindy Russell continuing as full time paid Executive Director.

IN 1990, WITH OUR beautiful office space located at Settlers' Green, we moved our tent site to the "inner court" near the present parking area at North Conway Grand Hotel and hosted nine scheduled events — eight in the tent, and the continuation of the now annual free Symphony Pops Concert in Schouler Park.

The attempt to increase our advance ticket sales to events in the tent was met with mixed success. Ultimately, as we reached the fall season, we had to face the fact that the old "economic slump" had come to North Conway.

In the early weeks of 1991, the Board decided to face the cramped financial environment by closing the Arts Jubilee office and eliminating the paid positions of full time Executive Director and assistant secretary. Cindy Russell's services were reduced to a part-time consultant with all Arts Jubilee equipment either placed in storage or in Cindy's makeshift office in her kitchen, including the telephone/answering machine and computer.

The Directors planned to base our season on the relatively successful free event in Schouler Park. With sponsor support, we attempted three events, all free, all in the park, with fund raising taking four stages: an annual fund-raising letter; instead of tickets, we would request free-will collections at all events; initiate major raffle drawings at each concert and end the season with a fall season fund-raiser with an American Airlines Vacation Auction.

Because of the investment in all outdoor performances, it was agreed that rain insurance was in order for the first time ever. And, as luck would have it, a huge downpour caused cancellation of the Up With People performance. Organizers re-arranged the Up With People tour to return two weeks later to perform once again in the park for a smaller, but appreciative, audience.

During the early '90s a long and lasting arrangement began with WMWV – FM. Beginning with George Cleveland and continuing through the present with Mark Johnson, the radio station has generously supported Arts Jubilee with live remote Drive Time broadcasts from the site of each concert, as well as ads during the days leading up to the event. Area residents and visitors have learned to check our Valley radio station to hear about the details of the concerts and make plans to attend. Additionally, support from both local newspapers, The Mountain Ear and the Conway Daily Sun, have provided readers with all the details of each concert. Arts Jubilee is forever grateful to our media partners in helping us get the word out about our special events.

1992 CONTINUED WITH support from Coca-Cola, American Airlines, and generous local sponsors participating at a level ranging from $500 to several thousand each. In order to include area businesses who were supportive of Arts Jubilee but could not find $500 in their sponsorship budget, the third performance, "Country in the Valley," brought a new level: the "Community Sponsor," at $200, and featured the talent of area musicians. A very cold August night brought low attendance, but showed us that local businesses were willing to pitch in if the sponsor fee was affordable. Among those new sponsors were Attitash; Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shop; Big Licks Ice Cream; Birchwood Credit Services; Central BancService Corp.; Cooper, Deans & Cargill; Crow's Creations; DJ's Bedding & Furniture Outlet; Hooligans; Jack's Sunoco; Lynch's Land Maintenance; North Country Fair Jewelers; Snug Harbor Restaurant; State Cable TV; The Reporter; Up Country Saloon; White Mountain Memories; White Mountain Milers; Yield House and Zeb's General Store, all of whom stepped up in that financial climate and helped with their community support for the first time.

In addition to the Pops Concert, we enthusiastically brought back "Up With People" and also continued the art show in the courtyard at Settlers' Green. Arts Jubilee is still grateful today to the long list of sponsors who assure that these well-loved music events will continue.

The inclusion of an art show was the result of an agreement made by Arts Jubilee in its early years to assist the Mt. Washington Valley Arts Association, a local non-profit serving the visual arts community in the Valley but which was experiencing a decrease in support and participation. Arts Jubilee agreed to partner with the arts association to present this important event, which was part of the Arts Jubilee summer schedule from 1984 through 1992.

In 1993, "doing what we do best," we scheduled events at Schouler Park, but with one change: turning the art show back to the Mt. Washington Valley Arts Association, which was in a position to administrate it again. Our three events were each begun with an early concert for picnickers to enjoy, followed by the main concert, and included a collection request for funding support from the audience.

The traditional Pops Concert met with severe thunderstorms that year, causing a total cancellation of the concert. We had purchased rain insurance for this performance because it was the only one which could not be rescheduled with a rain date. Did this all happen because Strauss' "Thunder and Lightning Polka" was on the program? Symphony conductor, Clayton Poole, agreed never to plan that music again. To show our gratitude to the major contributions by Coca-Cola, which was holding a special conference at the Fox Ridge to coincide with the symphony concert, a private concert by some of the orchestra members spontaneously forming a dance band was given at the Fox Ridge that evening.

In 1994, the theme was "Concerts Under the Stars." The series began with the Symphony Pops Concert and an early concert by Valley talent, Katie Belle & Band. Also in July was "An Evening with Tom Chapin & Friends," and the final concert of the season was "A Tribute to the Big Band Era." We discovered that we had a big following for the "big band sound." The local Rotary Club turned out in force and helped with the collection.

In January of 1995, Linda Walker, Arts Jubilee Director since 1987, encouraged fellow Directors to agree to re-establish the Artists in Residence series in our area public schools.

Otto Ninow, Jackson resident, ski patrol director, musician and "community celebrity," requested the opportunity to be the Symphony Concert's guest conductor of Smetna's "The Moldau," his mother's favorite piece in the days when they lived in Germany. Arts Jubilee was pleased to support his request, but sadly, a severe stroke prevented Otto from ever realizing his dream.

The Board voted that an "early concert," presented while the audience and picnickers arrived, would have to be a contribution from the performers — with no fee paid. Which brings us to the famous "Beatles" story. An early concert was arranged to 'warm up' the main concert performance of "Yesterday — Remembering the Beatles," slated to be held at the base of the North Slope at Cranmore Mountain. Kevin Dolan, John Deveneau, Rod Mackenzie and Davey Armstrong, of Acoustic Nuisance, graciously agreed to perform an early concert with a blend of Celtic and traditional Irish songs — at no charge.

This final event of the summer was hosted at Cranmore to celebrate the new ownership of the mountain with a "re-birth-day" complete with cake and fireworks. Then the fun began! At 7 p.m., as the early concert was well under way, a phone call was received from Boston advising us that the "Beatles" group had only just landed in Boston. They couldn't get to North Conway in time! What to do? Acoustic Nuisance willingly kept playing for another hour, switching to some of their "Beatles" music to help placate the audience's enthusiasm for the main concert they had come to hear. The music lasted until the sun set so the fireworks could be enjoyed. The birthday cake was delicious and the audience was very understanding. And the "Beatles group" refunded our deposit.

1996 brought an "all-request" series, bringing the traditional Symphony Concert when Bob Murphy, the man who spearheaded the creation of Arts Jubilee in 1983, was honored as guest conductor. Another Big Band program followed two weeks later, and finally, arriving a day early by contract, we actually were able to present "Yesterday, A Tribute to the Beatles." We ended the season just as before, at Cranmore, with an early concert once again by Acoustic Nuisance. A good time was had by all!

In the spring of 1997, the Town of Conway invited Arts Jubilee to participate in an Independence Day/Long Weekend celebration, Arts Jubilee agreed to extend the summer season to four programs, beginning on July 3.

Andy May and the Atlantic Express arrived along with an all-day thunderstorm "express" which would not go away. The decision was made to move the venue to Kennett High School gym. Unfortunately, the storms wouldn't stop, and almost no one came. Once more, the Symphony Concert was also greeted with heavy rain. In one summer, 50 percent of the season was a 'wash out'!

In May 1998, Arts Jubilee hosted the fifth visit by Up With People to the Valley. The strategy of a springtime concert was that more people would be able to help with housing, it would be held inside at Kennett's gym, and we would sell out the two performances for families in the area wanting to see the upbeat new show. All crystal ball gazing failed and while those who attended enjoyed the performance, Arts Jubilee experienced a negative financial result.

We returned to the three-program format in Schouler Park, declining to participate in the Independence Day celebration due to the expense. Programs ranged from the Austin (Texas) Lounge Lizards, to the pops concert when long-time Director and former President of the Board, Dick Brunelle, was surprised with the role of guest conductor. The season ended with a rousing performance by the New England Brass. The now famous "American Airlines Vacation Auction" was held in October, with another evening of record sales on eight pair of tickets to vacation destinations around the world

The decade closed in 1999 with three concerts and happy audiences. Our symphony concert was attended by record numbers. The first Arts Jubilee performance by Ceili Rain was scheduled with help from George Cleveland and WMWV radio, to appeal to the younger audience, but it resulted in reaching an audience of ALL ages and another record attendance. Our Big Band performance was marred by untimely storms, but moved to Cranmore Mountain's pub just before the concert was scheduled to begin. This rare, but successful, venue change was successful, with almost 500 people attending.

In the fall, the Board, led by John Colbath, Gary Rustad, Therese Davison, Carol Kramer and Mike Kirk, started planning for another decade of Arts Jubilee concerts with dreams of an upgraded stage and acoustic shell. Included in the Board of Directors who would help those dreams come true were Jac Cuddy, Joanne Faile, Laura Jawitz, Trina Jones, Chris Lydecker, Margaret Marshall, Sonni Saunders, Leslie Schomaker, Lynda Tibbetts, Linda Walker and, newly added in 2000, John Macdonald and Barbara White.

Next – 2000 to the present. Stay tuned!

Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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