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Jazz Festival organizer recounts ‘terrifying’ experience of waiting out powerful storm
Prairie Village Jazz Festival organizer Kathy Peterson was under a tent just to the north of the main stage Saturday when the winds began to whip through the municipal grounds. And she has one word for the experience of waiting out the 30-minute storm that ended up washing out the event: terrifying.
“The equipment was rolling around and being tossed about,” she said. “The thing we’re most thankful for is that nobody was hurt. From where we were, you couldn’t see up under the shelter where everyone was gathered, so it was a scary experience.”
Weather reports show that the wind gusts up to 35 miles per hour did the majority of the damage to the stage. But the torrential rains took a serious toll, as well. The crowd of several hundred people who rushed under the Harmon Park pavilion as the storm came on couldn’t avoid getting wet during the most intense parts of the storm, as the driving rain and winds combined to form perilous conditions.
“Everything was soaked,” Peterson said. “The stage guys kept saying, ‘We’ll figure it out.’ But they would have had to get totally different equipment out here. It was just too much.”
Peterson said the organizing group will set up a meeting soon to begin planning next year’s event. There had been some discussion of trying to repeat the planned lineup from this year, but Peterson said nothing is set in stone.
Because the cost of the festival had been covered by sponsorships and three fundraisers, the rain-out has little financial impact on the city or the organizing committee — aside from putting them back at square one as they begin planning for 2012.
“We’d hoped to use the proceeds from this year as seed money for next year,” Peterson said. “And we did get some, because the event had started. But not as much as we’d hoped.”
Steve Noll, a Prairie Village City Council member who served as the Jazz Festival liaison, said that, all things considered, it could have been much worse.
“The kids from [Shawnee Mission] East got the experience of playing before a real crowd, Shay [Estes] was having a great set,” he said. “Nobody got hurt, and no body seems upset. It’s too bad, but we’ll be back next year.”