Making Music, Raising Money

Making Music, Raising Money

Next week the Loudoun Foundation's 2006 Loudoun Summer Music Fest kicks off with a show by country music superstar Dwight Yoakam Sunday, June 4. This is the third season of the music festival, which takes place outdoors at the Belmont Country Club in Ashburn.

Back in 2004, the music festival was the vision of Loudoun Foundation president Tracey Parent who drove by the lawn at the Belmont Country Club constantly while going through her daily routines.

"I used to say, 'There should be a party in that field,'" Parent said. "And finally my husband said to me, 'Why don't you do it?‚'"

When she lived in Richmond, Parent was a fan of Innsbrook After Hours, a summer music festival that offers big-name music shows at a low price. When she decided to move forward with the Loudoun Music Fest, she contacted the promoters of Innsbrook After Hours to learn how they got started. Then, she said, she pitched the idea to AOL, who continues to be a presenting sponsor of the festival.

"We thought the festival was a nice melding of what we do," Rick D'Amato, vice president of AOL Community Investment, said. "It brings together music, events and the community."

Now Parent works with the promoters of Innsbrook After Hours to set up the festival's lineup, in order to get bigger bands for less money.

"Our lineup is based on Innsbrook's lineup," she said. "We try to route the bands so they can play two dates in a row and we can get a better price. The lower the price, the better deal we can give the audience."

This summer's season includes shows from well-known musical groups, such as Styx, Toto, Blues Traveler and Switchfoot. For the first time this year, the festival will offer Gold Circle seating for $40 at the Rick Springfield show July 16.

BESIDES PROVIDING good music in a family-friendly environment, the Loudoun Summer Music Fest’s main goal is to help raise money for different Loudoun County nonprofits. A portion of the proceeds from this year's festival will go to Loudoun Habitat for Humanity and Loudoun Soccer.

"We thought that if we could use our stage to raise awareness that would be a great thing," Parent said. "I really think that we can make a difference."

Each year different charities are chosen to be the recipients of the festival's proceeds. The charities are chosen by a Loudoun Foundation steering committee, following an application process.

"The steering committee selects the charities based on the level of passion the charity shows and their ability to support the event," Parent said.

The steering committee chose Loudoun Habitat for Humanity because of the work the organization does to bring housing to the less fortunate.

"A lot of people [on the committee] felt strongly about the housing situation here in Loudoun County," Parent said. "A lot of families can't afford to live here and Habitat is trying to build affordable housing."

Loudoun Soccer is an organization that few people in the Loudoun Foundation knew about before its presentation to the committee. There are 15,000 county children who participate in Loudoun Soccer programs every year that allows every child to play, regardless of money or ability.

"One out of every three kids in the county plays with us," secretary of Loudoun Soccer, Pete Margaros, said. "We are the largest program in the state and one of the largest in the country, but we don't have a place to call home."

It was Loudoun Soccer's lack of a soccer complex that prompted the Loudoun Foundation to name them as one of the festival's charities.

"Their programs were really impressive to us," Parent said. "We felt really compelled to help them because there are no soccer facilities in Loudoun County."

THE BENEFITING charities will not just be on the sidelines during the music festival. Throughout the events they will be providing volunteers to do everything from manning booths to collecting tickets.

Loudoun Soccer volunteers will be responsible for manning the Kids Fest area and will provide soccer instruction on a mini field. In addition, Margaros is arranging to have two DC United soccer players make appearances at some point during the summer.

Proceeds from the Loudoun Summer Music Fest can be a great help to nonprofit organizations, especially smaller ones such as Loudoun Soccer, but the benefits do not end at the money they receive.

"Our hope is that maybe someone in the audience will know someone or will be able to help the charitable organizations there," Parent said. "If we can help them that way, that's so much bigger than the event itself. I love to be the impetus for things like that."

For Margaros, the music festival provides Loudoun Soccer a chance to show county residents what his organization does and what it needs.

"We need to build a soccer complex and practice fields," he said. "Currently we use schools and parks, which aren't always in the best condition for the players. This event allows us to raise the awareness of this dire need."

It was the foundation's commitment to helping nonprofits that D'Amato said is the most important part of the festival.

"We believed in the project from the beginning, especially the focus on good works and support for the nonprofits," he said. "We hope this becomes a centerpiece of the summer for families around the county."