There is more to Roots N Blues N BBQ than meets the eye

Jamie Vavaro shares his perspective on what makes the festival unique.

For Jamie Varvaro, an 11-year veteran of Roots N Blues N BBQ and the festival’s director of development and marketing, the carefully thought-out details set this festival apart from others. From strategic stage placement to the innovative cashless system, Varvaro delves into festival details and shares with MOVE what he believes makes this event unique.

MOVE: What is your involvement like with the Roots N Blues festival?

Varvaro: I deal with all our branding and work alongside the assistant festival director with all advertising and social media.

MOVE How long have you been involved in the festival and what keeps you coming back?

Varvaro: I have been involved in one way or the other ever since the festival began. Up until this last year, I worked as a volunteer, and then as a consultant, where I would handle all the festival merchandise. I came on full time in October. I have two perspectives about coming back each year. One perspective is being tied to the festival, the connection of working for the festival and being part of it. The second is just the high quality acts and artists that we have at the festival. Magical things happen. Since it is in Stephens Lake Park, there is a community atmosphere, all of these music lovers, great crowds with people passionate about their experience. I cannot imagine a late September without Roots N Blues N BBQ festival.

MOVE: What do you think sets this festival apart from other music festivals?

Varvaro: I think we have this amazing art team that really focuses on enriching the environment beyond the park atmosphere. There are so many different art installations: sculptures hanging on trees, the way it is lit, the color and even the activities they have created for the youngest of our festivalgoers. Pretty cool, pretty darn unique atmosphere and there is also such an incredible lineup.

With an environment like the park, there are two huge stages and all this music going on. With the amount of space, the music does not cross, which is not always the case with other festivals because of sound bleed.

It is an amazing value. If you buy a three-day pass, you see the top-seven artists, which if you would pay to see each one individually, it would be around $300. You get to see them all in one place, plus another 26 artists.

MOVE: Any new changes for returners to expect?

Varvaro: A big change is that we are cashless. You get through the gate with your RFID wristband, and when you buy a beverage, food or merchandise, you use your wristband. Through the festival app, you register a wristband, tie it to your email and have a card associated with it, but you control how much money comes off by setting a certain amount you can hit. Every time you make a purchase, you get an email with the payment and balance. Inside the festival you can only use cash at the top-up station, which is where you can put additional cash on your wristband.

MOVE: What are you looking forward to most for this year’s festival?

Varvaro: From a music perspective, I am a big Gary Clark Jr. fan, and I am excited to see Leon Bridges and Ryan Adams. And being on the administrative end, I look forward to the gate opening on Friday and being in go mode. I look forward to the overall experience of finally launching the weekend and that everything is running smoothly.

MOVE: Is there anything MU students need to know about Roots N Blues?

Varvaro: We get a good number of students, and in the back of our minds, we always would like to have more students. It can be a balance with students because they are watching their budget. We try and make it a good value for them, and the tickets on campus are at a student rate. I know it has been very consistent that students come back year after year; it is just getting them to get there the first time.

This interview was edited for clarity.

Edited by Brooke Collier |

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