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Route 66 Festival to be held in June

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

The show will go on, according to officials with the Route 66 Country Music Festival.

The festival, expected to attract between 15,000 and 20,000 people to Springfield during each of its three days, has just had its conditional use permit approved by the Greene County Board of Zoning Adjustment.

Approved during the final hearing in the matter April 14, the conditional use permit means that the festival will be able to set up on the tract of land on Historic Route 66 and I-44 for the June 19-21 event, said Connie Shisler, festival manager.

In order for the show to be held at that site, the festival organizers also had to seek approval from the Federal Aviation Administration because of the site's proximity to the Springfield-Branson Regional Airport. The FAA presented written notification that the construction at the site would not exceed FAA obstruction standards and would not be a hazard to air navigation. That information was made public at the Greene County Commission hearing April 14, Shisler said.

Having cleared that hurdle, the event's organizers are now looking to get everything ready for the June 19-21 outdoor concert event. The entertainment has been booked, and many food and craft vendors have also signed on to be a part of the event. Shisler and her staff are taking orders for tickets, which are selling at discounted prices until the weekend of the festival.

This year's festival is set to be the first of many, Shisler said.

"We are making this an annual event. We're trying to make that clear to people when they call about tickets. We want them to know that we'll be back next year," Shisler said.

Several local investors have pooled their resources to make the event happen, Shisler said.

The Springfield festival will be similar to a festival held each year in Manhattan, Kan., but the local effort has different investors, Shisler said. The producers of that festival began the process for putting this one on, and many of the individuals involved in that festival will also be working with the Springfield festival. Most of the services those individuals are involved in concern staging and production, and they often follow the festivals.

"This is a group of people who do this kind of work for a lot of other festivals. They affiliate themselves with several festivals and schedule themselves alongside those. They will be doing things that local people really couldn't do," Shisler said.

Local people will be hired as seasonal help to assist in setting up and running the festival, Shisler said. Right now, a staff of about six workers is selling tickets and campground slots, and distributing information about the festival, Shisler said. She expects about 200 to 300 people to join the team later to help put the festival together.

"These are people who will assist with the camping facilities, the food, trash pick up, those kinds of things," Shisler said.

Shisler said she has also been meeting with a number of local officials the Greene County Sheriff's office and the Missouri Department of Transportation among them to make sure that issues like safety and transportation into and out of the festival area are considered.

"People have been really good to us through this process. These are considerations we would have anyway, so it's been relatively easy to demonstrate that we've got those things taken care of," Shisler said.

People from both the immediate local area and as far away as Canada have expressed interest in or purchased tickets for the festival, Shisler said. She could not approximate how many tickets had been sold, but said that the festival's hotel partner, the Quality Inn North, was already turning down reservations for that weekend. The festival has blocked about 200 rooms for its own staff.

Tracy Kimberlin, of the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he expects the hotel rooms to be near capacity during that weekend.

The festival will also have "primitive" camping available to patrons for $50 for all three nights. Space for both the camping and the patrons is flexible; Shisler said if they run out of room for the campers or general admission patrons, they will just create more.

"We have plenty of room, so we can always spread out a little more," Shisler said.

The festival will have 1,200 VIP seats. Those seats are being sold for $300 for all three days, and the package includes meals and unlimited drinks for the three days. The general admission seating is $55 for a three-day pass. Both of those prices are good only until May 1. General admission patrons will have to bring lawn chairs to sit on during the show, Shisler said.

Most of the food vendors who have signed up to be a part of the festival are local, and the festival is still looking for craft exhibitors to fill those spaces, she said.

Shisler could not approximate what the total cost of putting on a show like this one would be, but said that the entertainment alone costs $550,000. Some of the acts lined up for the concert include LeAnn Rimes, Sawyer Brown, Faith Hill, Bryan White, Tim McGraw, George Jones and the Charlie Daniels Band.

Shisler said the festival is being promoted in the immediate area, including the surrounding states of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas, but that the company has received calls for tickets or information from as far as Washington, Illinois and Canada.

Kimberlin said he hopes the event will continue to grow year over year, and added that he expects it to be economically beneficial for the city of Springfield. Though it will "not be a windfall," the amount of money this event will generate through the increased hotel/motel tax should be significant for the city, he said.

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