An old saw cuts like this: You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.
That's true of Burlington Steamboat Days, yes, but it doesn't mean the king of southeast Iowa festivals is dead. It's more like when your lover dumps you for the rich guy, and you pick yourself up, move on, and hold your head high.
It's all about money. Money changes everything.
Steamboat Days has long had both feet firmly planted in its studly robust days — the '80s and '90s — when name bands were plentiful and, best of all, relatively inexpensive.
The Baby Boomers were healthy middle-agers back then, and plentiful themselves. They had the time and energy to party all night, every night of the week down at the Boatin' beer garden on the riverfront.
Those days are gone, and the current BSD board has had plenty of headaches over the past year, not the least of which is a budget depleted from stuffing Toby Keith's pockets with wads of cash in 2014 in return for a yawner — by Boatin' standards.
But that's part of the past, too, so let's move to the future.
Carlos Capdevila has taken over the vice-president of entertainment position held by Mac Coffin for more than two decades. Coffin was the force that moved Steamboat Days entertainment out of the dark ages of Dixieland and dinosaur rock when he opened the floodgates for Nashville artists to pour into town.
Thank you, Mac. We will miss you. But now you're part of the past, too.
Coffin hand-picked Capdevila as his protégé.
"Carlos was the best replacement," Coffin said. "He is a very hard worker and a good organizer. He is well-versed on how the music industry works and has music contacts everywhere."
While this year's lineup isn't what we're all used to — six nights of big names from across America — Capdevila has called in a lifetime of markers to bring more talent, and more bands, than today's shrunken BSD budget would have acquired without him at the helm.
"The most important message I would like to send our community is that we need their support to keep the festival alive," Capdevila told The Hawk Eye. "We are transitioning from a concert venue type of event to a pure music festival. We have listened to our community when it comes to hiring the entertainment, we have listened to them about offering refunds — we are — we have listened to them about paying $4 for 'warm keg beer' and we have made many changes, all based on community surveys and comments."
What does that mean to you, the lifelong Steamboater? It's simple: If you don't support BSD this week, including the side events, it could be nearly impossible for the festival to continue.
Could be, not will be. That's up to you.
With the changes in the music industry over the past few years, it is now impossible for you to pay $20 a day to see acts costing a quarter-million or more, acts you'd pay $150 to see anywhere else.
"We are trying to invite people to their riverfront to meet friends, have a drink, have fun and listen to some great bands for just $15," Capdevila said.
Also this year, Jeff Ebbing takes over for Scott Smith, long-time vice-president of marketing.
"I’m excited about all the music we’ve packed into this year’s lineup," Ebbing said. "We focused on living up to our music festival name with multiple artists, including two headliners each day, along with a full day of music on Saturday."
Ebbing said even with the expanded lineup, BSD stayed with the two genres fans crave: rock and country.
"We’ve got big name classic and contemporary acts, and up-and-coming country — Adam Cunningham, Hailey Whitters," he said. "On the rock side, it’s pretty cool that we’ve got rock legends from four separate decades and still made plenty of room for regional favorites and up-and-comers as well, like Missing Letters and Howling Tongues."
Smith, who was a voice for the BSD marketing team for 22 years, said he's known Ebbing "since Jeff was a little Steamboater."
"Jeff is vested in our community, passionate about BSD, a great husband, dad, and friend," Smith said. "His marketing talent is second to no one. We're very lucky to have him at the marketing helm."
Ebbing is excited about the new BSD ticketing system, too.
"Going to wristbands for our fans will simplify things for people and allow us to improve the fan experience," he said. "After doing things the same way for 50 years, change will be hard for some people, which is one reason we sweetened the deal with free drinks and other spiffs. I’m sure there will be a few learning experiences this first year, but we’re working hard to make sure they’re minor."
Current BSD president Amy Burkhart has battled alongside Capdevila and Ebbing for much of the past year.
"Amy is the perfect leader at the perfect time for this organization," said former BSD president Stephanie Kozlowski. "The 2018 event has faced many challenges, from flood wall construction to increased costs of entertainment, but she has navigated all aspects with fierce dedication. Her passion for her hometown event is unmatched. Burlington Steamboat Days and this community at large are fortunate to have Amy."
We can think of few past presidents who might have stumbled and fallen, but again, that's in the past and we're all in the future now.
"I have enjoyed this festival with four generations of my family," Burkhart said. "Whether or not my kids, your kids, and our kids’ kids can say the same thing depends on all of us now. We need you to show up and help sustain this community’s signature event."
Questions flitter like mayflies for us here at The Hawk Eye, too, but the burning topic in the newsroom regarding Steamboat Days is this: Will Scott Smith make a guest appearance on the microphone for one last band introduction?
We hope so.
It all starts today at the Landing, the south stage and main stage with Adam Cunningham and Charlie Daniels.
We'll see you there.