CHARLESTOWN — It was good news for music lovers on Monday night when members of city council voted unanimously to approve a request from Rhythm & Roots festival organizers to bring back the popular Bastille Day weekend event. Working at Ninigret Park this fall, continuing a tradition that began 23 years ago.
The festival – an event that traditionally draws thousands of music fans to Charlestown each Labor Day weekend and has attracted musical luminaries such as Rhiannon Giddens, John Hiatt and Keb Mo – was canceled earlier this year when producer and festival founder Chuck Wentworth, citing health concerns, announced he was suspending all operations.
In a board presentation on Monday evening, Wentworth said that shortly after making his decision public, he heard from hundreds of disappointed fans and a number of people interested in keeping the festival alive.
One investigation in particular caught his eye, he said, that of Tyler Grill and Dave Rosenfeld of Hartford, Connecticut-based GoodWorks Entertainment Group.
GoodWorks is a successful entertainment company that runs several festivals and owns music venues in Connecticut, Wentworth said.
After a number of meetings with Grill and Rosenfeld, he said, he concluded the business would be a “perfect fit” in the “continuation of the legacy” he and his family have built over the years. years.
“GoodWorks isn’t just the name of the company,” Wentworth said, “but it’s the underlying philosophy of the business. It’s also a community-minded family organization whose the principles reflect the ideals on which Rhythm & Roots was built.”
“They have my full and unconditional support in carrying on the Rhythm & Roots legacy,” he said.
The plan is to keep the festival much the same as years past, with a program offering a similar style of roots music. Many volunteers and staff from previous years have agreed to stay on, Wentworth said, and he and his family have signed on to work as consultants for GoodWorks.
Grill and Rosenfeld also attended Monday’s meeting and addressed the board.
Rosenfeld, who founded the Fairfield Theater Company, a nonprofit center for arts and culture in the heart of downtown Fairfield, Conn., said he and Grills have produced and marketed thousands of shows and many outdoor family events.
What appealed to them about Rhythm & Roots, he said, was the idea of linking community, culture and the arts, as well as the “great appeal” of working with Wentworth.
“Having Chuck on board is huge,” Rosenfeld said. “We plan to learn from him and we’re really excited.”
“It’s a really, really good fit,” he said.
He also said they had modest expectations for the first year as they learned the ropes and looked forward to working with the city.
Vice Chairman of the Board Cody W. Clarkin, who said he grew up going to the festival, expressed his excitement for the festival to return to Ninigret Park.
“I love Rhythm & Roots,” he said, adding that it had been a “roller coaster” of emotions from when the festival was canceled until the bid was approved on Monday night. .
“You put your heart and soul into it” [the festival] he said looking at Wentworth, “and it absolutely shows.”
Councilor Bonnie Van Slyke, noting that her father was instrumental in organizing the first-ever festival at Ninigret Park, said she was also delighted that the festival was returning.
“It’s always been a favorite,” she said. “You did a terrific job, Chuck.”
“We are very happy to keep the Rhythm & Roots legacy alive,” Grill said in a Tuesday morning phone interview. “It’s fantastic. And having Chuck and his family stay involved is a great opportunity for us to learn.”
“The support from the city has already been fantastic,” he added.
Rosenfeld, who joined Grill on the phone call, spoke about the success of the GoodWorks business model at the Fairfield Theater Company.
When the nonprofit received the Main Street Business of the Year award, he said, it was an important experience.
It was the first time a nonprofit had received the award, he said, and it proved that building community through the arts was a good idea.
“This will be our first time in Rhode Island,” Rosenfeld added. “And we want it to be a win-win.”
Grill said he and Rosenfeld will now begin working with Wentworth on the talent roster for the festival, which will now officially be held September 2, 3 and 4 at Ninigret Park.