To anyone who pays attention, it should come as no surprise that the All Ohio Balloon Festival and the Journal-Tribune share some pretty close ties.
Newspaper officials stepped in to operate the festival 14 years ago when other community organizations no longer wanted to put in the time. Since then, perhaps the biggest change brought to the event has been performances by national musical acts. We figured that people’s necks would cramp from looking up all the time, so we gave them something on the ground to look at.
The process of securing known entertainers for two nights of the festival is a long one. In fact, it starts about two weeks after the festival ends, meaning we are currently in the process of looking for acts for 2020.
Publisher Kevin Behrens has contacts with all of the major talent agencies and secures lists of acts available in the festival’s price range. I’m one of the people who looks over the pricing lists to come up with ideas on who we might want to put on the stage Thursday and Friday nights.
There are a lot of things to consider – chiefly, can we make our money back? Make no mistake, at least breaking even on the musical acts is difficult.
But other factor’s are also in play. We have to decide what size crowd we need and what the ticket price must be in order to get the audience to the appropriate size. We have to see what type of stage and lighting demands the acts make and if those costs are unreasonable. We have to figure out whether the act will draw a young or old audience and whether the anticipated crowd could get unruly.
I will tell you that we tend to book acts that draw an older, “lawn chair” type of crowd. We like for people to have a stress-free night where they can sit down and not have their ear drums assaulted by loud music or curse words (other than this year, whoops Aaron Lewis).
I tell you all of this, to say that an act I had been pushing for in recent years had to be scratched off the list. Eddie Money died on Sept. 13 at the age of 70.
It was a running joke during band booking time that “Eddie Money was available.” This was because I had been pushing to put him on the stage and his price was within our range.
He was the soundtrack to my middle school experience. I would have loved to have heard his raspy voice sing “Two Tickets to Paradise,” “Think I’m in Love,” “Shakin,’” “Take Me Home Tonight,” “I Wanna Go Back” and “Walk on Water” to a local crowd. I thought other people within 20 years of my age would have a similar nostalgic feeling toward him.
Other organizers did not want to book him. Their reasoning – the afore mentioned songs might be unrecognizable. A quick search online for video of his recent live shows made it pretty clear that his voice was failing him. His energy was down also, so the performances weren’t great.
Money had suffered from health problems for years and in August of this year he revealed that the was in the late stages of esophageal cancer after being a longtime smoker. Complications from the cancer caused his death.
That’s sometimes the tightrope we walk in hiring aging rockers. Their health doesn’t always hold up and there is always a balancing act between finding an affordable booking price and their ability to still perform.
I’ll always kind of regret not suggesting Eddie Money for the Balloon Fest stage 10 years earlier.
-Chad Williamson is the managing editor at the Journal-Tribune.
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