Getting back: Louisville’s Beatles festival heads into year two with high hopes

May 23, 2006 at 6:59 pm

Fifth Third Bank Abbey Road on the River is here to stay — at least if you ask founder and promoter Gary Jacob.

“If we can deliver on all the promises we’ve made, there’s no reason the one-year, five-year and 10-year outlook shouldn’t be for everyone to say, ‘Hey, this is good for our community,’” Jacob said.

He said his objective is to “take this incredible festival with this incredible music and continue to make it bigger, better, more important — so when the execs from Apple come to see the event, they will say, ‘Hey you’ve done us proud.’”

Last year, the festival’s first in Louisville after three difficult years in Cleveland, AROTR brought some 20,000 attendees, with an estimated $3 million in economic impact, according to an official press release. This year’s projections are 30,000 attendees and a $4 million economic impact for the festival, which begins this Friday, May 26, and continues through Sunday, May 28.

Local promoter Eric Weigel said the increased projections are based partly on the addition of Kroger as a co-sponsor, and an accompanying promotion through which attendees can purchase one-day tickets for $10, versus $15 at the gate.

Of course, it won’t hurt that there will be four more stages and 25 more bands than last year, all playing Beatles music from open until close. It also won’t hurt that Pete Best, the Beatles’ first full-time drummer (see below), and Allan Williams, the band’s first booking agent, will speak during the event. There are many other attractions, plus lots of merchandise, on tap as well.

Mark Beyer plays keyboards for the Rigbys, a Louisville-based Beatles tribute band that will perform at AROTR. He believes the festival is a blessing, not just for music fans but for the community as a whole, and even the bands who will be performing.

“You can make contacts outside the city for future performances,” he said. “You make other contacts as well, such as people that can make the proper clothing . And it’s good all around for the city because people are going to spend money.”

“I’m really partial to it,” said Mark Staycer, who brings his John Lennon tribute “Imagine” back this year. He has performed at all of the AROTR events, as well as numerous other Beatles festivals worldwide.

“I think Abbey Road on the River is coming into that realm of major music festivals, with a capital M,” Staycer said. “I’ve had a taste of all the Beatle events, and the general word is that Abbey Road on the River is a must-attend show.”

Why is this one different? “It’s about the music,” he said, noting that many Beatles events are more geared toward merchandise and guest speakers. But it’s the music that brings them back.

“Beatles fans are for a lifetime,” Beyer added. “If you can provide entertainment along those lines, they will be at every event. You’ll see people from 5 to 65, and what’s amazing is the 5-year-olds know all the words.”

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