June 14, 2007

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Festival beyond the music
By Erica Febre efebre@hippopress.com

This year’s festival will feature a combined dance and music performance, Dancing Under the Stars, with the Rico Barr Jump N Jive Review and Royal Palace Dance Studio.

Starting at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Royal Palace dance instructors and students will lead you through dance moves and show off their own to the live music of Rico Barr Jump N Jive Review. The dance studio will do a variety of swing dance, salsa, ballroom, merengue, bachata and more.

While the organizers of the event are still reaching to new vendors and more local businesses, a few have already decided to take up some booth space. During the day, a number of food vendors will have anything from hot dogs to pizza and drinks available.

The Queen City Rotary Club also will have its annual bed race-competition, starting at 1 p.m., on Saturday, June 16.

Coming to Hanover Street for the festival is Commercial Street Fishery. The seafood restaurant features its own in-house live jazz duo on Thursday nights with the Jazz Dogs. Commercial Street Fishery will have foods available.

New England Sampler, located on Hanover Street, will step out onto the sidewalk for the festival with their specialty gifts and foods, including ice cream, available for purchase. Tracy Jenkins Photo has also reserved booth space and will have pictures and more available.

New Cheese Grill, right next to the Palace Theatre, and relatively new to the neighborhood, will have its own selection of live music hitting the stage after the festival’s performers end. New Cheese tables will be open to festival-goers looking for food and drinks.

Festival survives despite struggles
Seven years ago, when former Manchester mayor Bob Baines was still in office, he sat down with Peter Ramsey, president and CEO at The Palace Theatre, and the two worked together to bring more music events to the downtown area.

The idea was to bring a festival to downtown Manchester, featuring live music and art. Seven years later, the festival is now known as the AutoFair Downtown Manchester Jazz & Blues Festival.

“Most people now realize that the more activity in the downtown area, the better. But that wasn’t always the case years ago,” Ramsey said.

Jim Roach, who has helped Palace Theatre organize the event for several years, remembers a time when Manchester was home to more than 20 theaters. The Hanover Street festival is, and has always been, dedicated to the support of Palace Theatre, one of Manchester’s three remaining theaters.

“This year, we also have the support of the Manchester Arts Commission, which is good. Some very big festivals in Manchester have stopped because it takes a lot of work, a lot of volunteers and a lot of supporters. It’s really not a money-making opportunity at all,” Ramsey said.

Over the years, there have been changes — what started as a two-stage festival now has one stage, and the Citizens Bank courtyard, which used to feature performances along with artists displaying works, isn’t an option anymore. The schools that used to perform at the festival are taking a break and won’t be performing this year.

“This is still another celebration of downtown. The people of Manchester like having events occurring downtown. It’s nice being able to sit outside and listen to music,” Ramsey said.