This “festival promoting” can be fun and rewarding. Since the three of us, Brian, Travis and me cooked up this Stoplight Festival, I have been privileged to be one of the promoters. This year is the second annual Toledo Stoplight Festival, and if the weather cooperates, it will be an awesome event. Believe me when I tell you that weather can have a profound effect on the outcome of an event!
In a Déjà vu sort of way, these activities remind me of a similar event I helped promote many years ago. The similarities in duties have brought back memories from the past and have caused me to wonder what happened to a couple of my confederates from that era.
I was part of the graduating class of 1973. With a handful of other students, we had a goal of graduating early. All of us took an early morning class during the first two years of high school, and a summer school class. The summer school class both years was Individualized Reading. It was great getting credits for something you loved to do. We sort of made it a party and would all go do something together many days after class.
In any event, I managed to graduate early. To set the record straight, it wasn’t as a scofflaw; I graduated on the honor roll. I had a semester of college out of the way before the rest of my class graduated.
On this thing called Facebook, I have become reacquainted with classmates from both graduating classes – 1972 and 1973. Because I a “tweeener,” I either fit in with both classes, or neither, depending on your perspective.
When I started at MCC that semester, I fell in with a certain crowd. The first, and a man who became a mentor to me was Tom Osborne. He was president of the Student Council, and became my good friend. Tom had already done a stint in the Army, in Vietnam, and had gone back to school after leaving the Army.
The second was Greg Scott. He had been in the Navy in Ethiopia of all places. He too was at MCC after his stint in the military.
The third was Harold Lee. I don’t remember a lot of Harold’s story prior to MCC, but he became a fast friend too. In fact, of that group, he is the only one with whom I still correspond.
The four of us, members of the student council and associates, cooked up a concert to beat all concerts ever in Marshalltown. The lineup included REO Speedwagon, and a five piece girl’s band from Omaha called Vixen.
Tickets were designed and printed. Posters were designed and printed. And then the concert promoting began.
We had ticket outlets in Des Moines, Ames and Cedar Falls. We went on concert promoting field trips to hang posters all over central Iowa and beyond. It was a great time, and as some college kids are apt to do, we partied while promoting.
Remember back to the early 70s in Iowa if you can. The state legislature had lowered the drinking age first to 19 and then the following year to 18. I was old enough, and in the company of my three confederates, imbibed right along with them.
Back then the Hotel Tallcorn was the premium hotel in the area. We had rooms booked for Vixen, but I don’t remember what the arrangements were for REO Speedwagon; I think they toured by bus and took care of their own lodging.
Things reached a fever pitch in the days prior to the concert. There were so many details that needed our attention prior to the event. The details, and the work, made for a great time amongst great friends I will always cherish those memories.
I remember we were very busy in those days leading up to the concert. We had to make sure all of those little details were covered. We tried to watch the evening weather to see what the predictions were for concert night.
In 1973, there was no Internet, no Doppler radar, and no substantial long range forecasts that were worth much. The only thing we could determine: snow was likely.
Snow in April; how bad could it be? We kept on planning, kept on concert promoting, right up to the time it began snowing. It started to snow and snow and wouldn’t let up. It wasn’t until about three hours before the concert that we finally admitted it wasn’t going to happen. The governor had just closed the highways and banned travel.
It is said that people remember what they were doing at important times in history. There is even a question which has become part of our collective cultural identity: “Where were you when the lights went out?”
Everybody alive at the time remembers exactly what they were doing when JFK was shot, when man first set foot on the moon, and many other events.
So now you know what I was doing, and exactly why I will never forget the exact date of the worst spring blizzard ever in Iowa – April 9, 1973.
Until next time--
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n to the Wind and this column are copyright 2011 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.