Blog: Andrew Clock

If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito. - Betty Reese
Water Street Trail Project founder Andrew Clock, volunteer coordinator of the Michigan Roots Jamboree and barfly philanthropist, offers the pick-me-ups to prove that no one is ever a speck on the wall.

How Did I Get Here Again?

I got into the business of festivals by accident. A few years ago, an old friend who had just moved back to Ypsilanti from California approached me about helping him create a music festival here in the city. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Putting on what became the Michigan Roots Jamboree taught me a lot about about what it takes to build a large scale public event. There were aspects I never even imagined; complaints from the neighbors, last-minute failures, and politicians who seemed like they would have more important things to do. And that doesn't take into account the nuts and bolts of putting on a festival. It's insanely hard work, and chances are it's something you do in addition to your full-time job.  Ask me in the months leading up to the festival if I'm having fun, and I will not hesitate to laugh. Ask me after, and I'll still tell you it wasn't any fun, but everything I got out of it was.

And that's the thing. Putting on a festival isn't going to change the world or make you rich (it definitely won't make you rich) but it is going to introduce you to people from all across your community. The more open your festival is, the better. I've met musicians, artists, puppeteers, fire eaters, poets, writers, organizers, gourmet cooks, politicians, business leaders, moms, dads, kids, some of my best friends, and probably even an enemy or two. Not just that, but you are in the business of making those people happy, and that is a rare opportunity – not to make them happy like "Here's your ice cream," but to have the chance to provide an escape, a vacation, even if it's only for a couple of hours. It's a chance to see some old friends in the beer tent and show the kids something neat in the art displays. As hard as the work gets, and no matter how frustrated you are, there is always a chance to sit back just for a second, and watch people enjoying themselves. That makes everything worthwhile. Or close enough.

So, now, I find myself as the head of the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival, an event with some 30-odd years of history, and expectations, behind it.  Like a lot of other civic events, let's face it, like Michigan's cities in general, we face a struggle. Attendance has been down and so has revenue. I have to find a way to be a leaner, more cost-efficient festival, to add attractions that will bring in new visitors, but not chase away the folks who have been coming their whole lives. And I have to do it with a new group of people whom I haven't worked with before, and who are new to the festival too. This time around, I don't have the luxury of trying to target a certain audience. I'm throwing a party for everyone in a very diverse city. It's a much bigger challenge on every level. To be honest, it's a little bit scary.  But it's going to be a lot of fun. Sooner or later.