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Music festival anticipates milestone year

By Sally Voth

The show will go on at the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival as it celebrates its 50th anniversary next summer. But, whether it will make it past its first half-century depends on the success of its fundraising campaign, the Future Fifty Fund.

"We're raising money to make sure that we do a good 2013 [season], to make sure that the organization stays open beyond 2013, and to get us a good jump on our second half-century," festival President Dennis Lynch said in a Monday afternoon phone interview.

The goal is to raise $100,000. Festival organizers hope to get 2,000 people to donate $50 or more -- $1 for each year of the festival.

According to the festival's website, www.musicfest.org, a small group of people, chagrined the only professional music in the area came from county fairs, started the festival in 1963 with a performance in the Massanutten Military Academy gym.

"Apple crates were hung from the ceiling to baffle the sound that bounced off the concrete block walls," the site states. "The Festival's grown and thrived for nearly 50 years by keeping one simple point in mind - it's all about the music. Present high quality music in an intimate, up close, pastoral setting - the grounds of the Shrine Mont Camp and Conference Center - and people from all around will come. We provide the music, nature provides the show."

The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra has been an annual staple of the festival since 1979, and famous performers have included The Temptations, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Travis Tritt and Ronnie Milsap.

The music festival was responsible -- with the National Endowment for the Arts' help -- for creating the strings program at Shenandoah County Public Schools, according to the website.

Now, the continuing poor economy threatens the nearly 50-year-old program.

"The last two years have been lean," said Lynch, now the festival's only employee. "Any time you're in the nonprofit arts and culture business, pretty much any year could be your last these days."

The festival's income comes from ticket sales, donations, grants and sponsorships.

"All four of those have suffered during these past few years of a bad economy," Lynch said. "There are no plans for 2013 to be our last year at this point. But, if things don't pick up, there's a definite possibility."

Besides financial support, the music festival is seeking feedback from the public.

"If they have [a performer] that they want to suggest that we look at for hiring, if they have an idea about a different way of doing something, if they have an idea for a different sort of fundraiser...we love talking to the public," Lynch said.

He said other special events would be planned throughout the festival's golden anniversary.

Donations can be made at the secure contribution page at the festival's website, by sending them to SVMF, P.O. Box 528, Woodstock, Va. 22664, or by calling the festival office at 459-3396.


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