Looking back on Middlewest Fest

By Jessica Jenks

Last weekend, downtown DeKalb was invaded by bands, artists and filmmakers. The inaugural Middlewest Music and Arts Festival provided a weekend of rock n’ roll at a reasonable price for all attendees.

Bands were playing in stores, out in the open in Van Buren Plaza, as well as traditional music venues. People were walking around playing their acoustic guitars, accordions and ukuleles. A cosmetology school was transformed into a film festival. The atmosphere was filled with music and art, entertainment and talent, good energy and optimism. 

But after six months of planning, it seemed to be over all too quickly for the festival’s creator, John Ugolini.

My phone call apparently woke John from his post-Middlewest Fest Rest, and we discussed the good, the bad and plans for Middlewest Fest, Part Deux. Having nearly a week to reflect on everything, John’s overall feeling was that Middlewest Fest was a success. Local businesses were overwhelmingly excited, and already want to be involved next year. Agencies have already contacted him trying to submit artists for Part Deux, and Verizon Wireless even discussed being a sponsor in 2011.

I would be ecstatic if I was John, but somehow he maintains this cool, calm and collected attitude. The coolest thing about the experience for him was seeing people writing on schedules, planning what bands to see when. John admits as a frequent concert-goer, he feels jaded, and has stopped paying attention to the opening bands when he goes to shows. Walking around Middlewest Fest he felt it took the form of a romanticized version of a music and arts festival. People were excited to discover bands they had never heard of, and just walked around soaking in the atmosphere.

“It’s like planning the first big party at your new place. If people come and don’t have a good time, they aren’t going to want to come to any more of your parties,” John explained. If his goal was to make sure people had a good time, I would say he should consider the event a success. I think people are definitely looking forward to his next party. The people who missed out this year should definitely check the festival out next year.

In a few weeks, the planning stages for next year will begin. Expect to see street performers, comedians and more art next year. John wants to bring as much multimedia as possible, and a wide representation of the art scene. Be sure to watch out for preview shows in the spring semester for what will hopefully be The Second Annual Middlewest Music and Arts Festival.