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Bronze Blues and Brews returns for 2017

Board member takes over director’s chair for this season

By Steve Tool

Wallowa County Chieftain

Published on February 7, 2017 8:33PM

The Bronze Blues and Brews Festival will continue in 2017, thanks to board member Mike Straw, who volunteered at the last minute to take the director’s post for one year.

Chuck Garrett, the festival’s director for 21 years resigned from the post last November.

The festival takes place during the second weekend of August and after 20 years is one of the county’s staple events.

At the time of Garrett’s resignation, some board members wanted to take the year off to regroup. Straw was on vacation at the time and knew nothing of Garrett’s final decision.

When Straw returned and learned what happened, he and other board members knew the year off would hurt the festival. It took the event several years to recover from the time the festival took the 2009 year off.

“There’s too many things you lose,” Straw said. “Everyone who made a reservation last year has to call up and cancel their reservations, and those places have to find someone else to occupy the rooms, vendors don’t get to vend and bands don’t get to play.”

He also mentioned the loss of grants and donations to area schools that have totaled more than $50,000 through the years, as well as money streaming into various local businesses.

“We’re talking north of 1,500 people who attend each year,” Straw said.

Knowing the festival needed a new director, Straw called around and got some interest, but no takers. In the end, everything was in place but the new director. Straw volunteered his services for a year.

“It seemed too good to let it go,” Straw said. “I was around when it began and I’ve been with it all these years. Many of our volunteers and board were still here and still committed. With all that help, it seemed like it was possible to get things done.”

Straw doesn’t consider himself a hero for temporarily taking on the position.

“I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing it without so many volunteers and board members who have donated so much time and done so much over the years to keep this festival going,” he said. “I couldn’t do it without them.”

He also thanked Garrett for his years of service.

“It’s a lot of work. It’s a tremendous burden to carry on top of running your own business, like Chuck did.” Straw said.

With the blues train righted on its track, the festival is currently working on recruiting acts for this year’s festival, which takes place Aug. 11-12.

“We always need more volunteers, and we’d like to get more younger people involved,” Straw said.


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