August 9th, 2008


Iowa State Fair 2008

Sadly, I have to rant here.

The Iowa State Fair has gotten rid of the Cultural Center Courtyard stage; worse still, they've given the Tubador a raw deal, only having him play twice on the very last day of the fair.

I have to explain about the Tubador: this classy gentleman for years and years came to the State Fair and, every single day, played standards on solo tuba and tambourine in the Cultural Center courtyard, a horribly hot space surrounded on three sides by the Cultural Center, thus assuring essentially no wind to go along with the merciless sun. He built up a following in that space--enough so that someone realized that there could be a stage there, and so one of sorts was set up--a tent at the south end of the courtyard.

Then, not only did the Tubador perform there, but other artists as well, and they did draw an audience--though not one fully apparent to onlookers, because a lot of people couldn't bear the oppressive sunlight and absence of moving air, and would watch and listen from within the Cultural Center, which is a converted dormitory--one of several put up long ago; they all look like drab examples of Soviet apartment buildings, lined with windows--no air conditioning, but at least there were fans inside, which is more than one could say for the courtyard.

The one constant in all this was the Tubador. He drew a following of all ages to a performance space that was darned close to what you'd design if your goal was to make sure nobody came! He jammed with the world-music inspired jazz group World Port, and even with humble Concentio Agnorum... and now the tradition is over.

The Cultural Center now has the mayor and his wife's name tacked on; they have donated three quarters of a million dollars to its improvement: "infrastructure and cosmetic renovations to include electrical, plumbing, handicap accessibility, windows, climate control, and façade and courtyard enhancements" according to a story from last year. I've not been inside, but walking by it, nothing is evident yet. Climate control probably means they'll air condition the building; given all the things they have packed in there, I shudder to think what it will be like trying to navigate the building with people using it as an escape from the heat, and it will mean that those thinking of going into the courtyard will think of the microclimate there and say, as they supposedly do in New York, "fugeddaboutit".

I guess we'll see what those "courtyard enhancements" are. If they have any sense, they will put up a translucent shade to block the worst of the sun and turn the east end of the courtyard into a permanent stage, with ramps to allow performers to schlep their gear and storage space for stage sound equipment, as opposed to the nightmare that it was to get amps, instruments, and such in and out through the tightly packed exhibits in the Cultural Center, and do something to allow actual air movement in the courtyard... and bring back the Tubador!

I urge all those interested, and any readers who might have seen the Tubador in the past, to contact the State Fair and express your opinion.

UPDATE: My lady wife reminds me that the Fair administration refused to put up a tent to provide shade for the audience... but this year, with the stage replaced by "Art Attack" (in which children can do arts and crafts), what do they put up? A tent for Art Attack.
  • Current Music
    "Satin Doll," the Tubador