Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
When they lost their main source of income – tobacco crop – residents of the small Canadian town of Simcoe, Ontario were left facing a bleak future. The scene quickly changed when the popular English folk rock band Mumford & Sons planned a stop at the town and brought $10 million worth of income with them.
In 2012, the musical group started a small-scale festival they called Gentlemen of the Road, which would have stops in rural areas around the world.
“[Mumford & Sons] decided a couple years ago that they would start these small tours they call stopovers,” Guthrie Event Volunteer Coordinator Stacy Watts said. “They would look for an area that could provide them with the space and manpower; an area that they believed they could have a serious economic impact on.”
For their 2013 tour, five towns were selected to host the festival. Mumford & Sons decided that Guthrie, Okla. would be home to the fourth leg of their tour, taking place on September 6 and 7.
“When the professional company came to town they were so impressed with the Guthrie downtown as still being a functional downtown that did not give into urban development,” Watts said. “It is a really cool chance for Guthrie to represent Central Oklahoma.”
Watts said the expected tax revenue increase for the town of Guthrie is more than $400,000.
“Because everything is on such a larger scale, we’ve gone to the local colleges, clubs, civic organizations, Boy Scouts, put the word out that we’re looking for groups,” Watts said.
More than 1,000 individuals are in line to help out however they can with the event. Approximately 24 of those people are from Oklahoma Christian University.
“It’s great that the event is supported by local volunteers,” junior Emma Axtell said. “It shows that the community supports the event and is excited to host the bands and festival goers.”
Each volunteer who works a six-hour shift is given a T-shirt and a ticket to attend the festival when they are not on duty.
However, if a group of 10 or more people from any non-profit organization volunteer, Mumford & Sons have promised a donation for helping put on their show.
The small town of Guthrie is expecting a crowd of more than four times its residential population.
“We have roughly a six-block section of the Historic Downtown that is being contained and used for the downtown festival area,” Watts said. “We also have Cottonwood Flats that is immediately west of the historical district.”
While the Historic District is an interesting backdrop for the festival, Cottonwood Flats, with its 80-acre stretch, provides the necessary space.
“I think the concert willbring a lot of attention to the area,” Axtell said. “People who otherwise wouldn’t have come to Guthrie will visit and see the local community. I hope the concert will bring more business to the area.”
Although all of the staff are locals, the event itself is primarily organized by an outside source. The people of Guthrie have put a large amount of thought and effort into their part.
“Locally, our biggest issue will be parking,” Watts said. “Our biggest parking area is a 40-some acre field.”
This plot of land belongs to a Guthrie farmer – he gave up his crop for the year and let his field grow to grass for the purpose of providing parking for The Gentlemen of the Road.
Some Oklahoma Christian students will be in attendance, having purchased tickets before they sold out on the first day of their release.
“I’m excited to go to a music festival that has a couple of my absolute favorite bands playing,” senior Timothy Sikes said. “I think it is going to be a lot of fun.”
One lucky student, Suzanne Bigelow, won a free pair of tickets that the Oklahoma Christian bookstore gave away this week.
“I heard about the festival from friends and I knew I wanted to go,” Axtell said. “I was worried about the availability of the tickets because everyone was so excited about the concert. Luckily, it wasn’t an issue for me.”
The elaborate tickets were mailed to the buyers just a short time ago. Styled similarly after passports, these booklets feature a few local eateries.
“I’m very excited to experience some of the unique local places in Guthrie I wouldn’t normally get to experience,” Axtell said. “I plan on eating at some of the local restaurants.”
One featured restaurant is The Blue Belle Saloon, owned by Robert Painter. The historic building is considered a landmark in Guthrie and for this reason it was listed as a top place to visit during downtime between performances.
“It has been around for over 100 years, it is a very old, well-known place in Guthrie,” Painter said.
Because of the large amount of people expected for the festival, Painter and his staff planned accordingly. Extra workers and a limited menu are in place for the weekend as preparation.
“We have to think a little bigger and just go for it,” Painter said. “You just don’t know how many people are going to be here. We’re hoping for it to be very good.”
Sikes believes the stopover offers a unique opportunity.
“Big music groups don’t usually come to Guthrie, Oklahoma,” Sikes said. “I think it’s going to be a really good experience.”