OP-ED by Brent Willoughby
MANCHESTER, KY - On Saturday, September 3rd, 2022, at 6:00 PM I took the opportunity to visit the Manchester Music Festival for the first time. I went with a somewhat open mind and decided that I would take some pictures and videos and just see what the overall atmosphere was like.
My previous knowledge of the festival has been from hearing the accounts of others and reading a handful of social media posts. I specifically remember the controversial banner "Welcome MMF'ers" that seemed to upset some people during the festival's inaugural year. It is probably still a controversial topic.
I don't specifically remember anything about the second year of the festival. Last year, the 3rd festival, my wife went to purchase some food from one of the vendors. Who doesn't like the occasional indulgence of a food truck offering feel good comfort food not available on a daily basis? She, and our children, were sad to discover that the vendors had closed down early. I surmised that it was because there were not enough event goers to justify the vendors remaining open. Thankfully that wasn't an issue this year.
I was able to park off of Dickenson Street and make my way down the hill and onto the main drag. I hadn't been in town too long when I ran into Mr. Tim Parks (right), and I asked if he had time for a photograph. He willingly obliged and jokingly commented, "If it's going to be a good story and not a bad one." I snapped a quick shot and reminded him that I report the good and the bad and we departed ways.
I went for a short walk to check out all of the different booths and vendors. Some appeared busy while others did not. The food vendors lined up down 421 between Town Center and Main Street were busy. Judging from the smiles on peoples' faces the event goers were enjoying funnel cakes, lemonade, ice cream, and various other food and beverages.
I went into Pat's Snack Bar for a few minutes, and it was hopping as one might expect. Back out on the street there were people around the Police Department, The First National Bank of Manchester, D & J's Pawn Shop and a decent crowd was in place and still growing. The stage was set up in front of the County Clerk/Sheriff's Office and what appeared to be a small VIP area was front and center.
There was a sense of normalcy and I consider that to be a positive thing in a county that had communities recently ravaged by flooding. The atmosphere was in fact festive. Being a parent and grandparent the most joyous thing I witnessed was a small group of children passing a ball on the street. I didn't even think to take a picture because I was caught in the moment. Teenagers were being teenagers, friends and families were sitting with one another, and the community as a whole had a reason to come together. I wasn't personally a big fan of the music performed but others seemed to really enjoy it.
I've come to learn in life that you can't please everyone and that people who don't take part in the countless hours of planning and preparation shouldn't be so quick to pass judgment on the efforts of others. That is not my intention at all, and I believe in giving credit where credit is due.
In my personal opinion I believe it would be nice to see a return to Clay County Days with the Manchester Music Festival running concurrently at its own venue close by. This would allow the people to have the best of both worlds. A small-town festival and a music festival. Even if that were to happen people would probably still find something to complain about. Like I said you can't please everyone.
All in all, I would say that the Manchester Music Festival has taken steps in the right direction and is probably here to stay. With more funding and community support the event definitely has the potential to grow. I just hope it doesn't grow into a modern form of Bread and Circuses whereas the community is fed and entertained and not actively engaged in matters concerning the community.
If you want change then you have to be willing to become part of that change.
For those involved in all aspects from the vendors to the planners and sponsors, the Clay County Fiscal Court and last but certainly not least the law enforcement officers who ensure everyone's safety; I would commend your time and efforts in allowing Clay Countians to have an opportunity to come together and celebrate something positive. Thank you!
The last observation from Saturday night that I want to share doesn't pertain to the festival, but I feel that it is worth reporting. As I was exiting the event, I witnessed a young girl sitting next to God's Closet and I slowed down. I quickly realized that there was a woman with her who was inside the "closet" at the donation center. A man was standing outside of a pickup truck a few meters away. I presumed it was a family. While others were in town celebrating at least one family was seeking help.
Celebration and struggle co-exist in our community.
Some children are playing ball in the street while other children are waiting patiently for their parents to find a piece of clothing. Let's be joyous for those who are celebrating but let's also remain compassionate for those who are struggling.
Sharing both sides,
About Brent Willoughby:
- Proud Kentucky native
- Former Sergeant U.S.M.C
- Member of Mount Carmel Christian Church
- Lifelong student of history and humanity.