Q&A at Franklin & Marshall College

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A bit of a #ThrowbackThursday to October before my presentation at Franklin & Marshall College on the role of arts in a city's economy. Here's an excerpt of the interview.

How did you know that arts would be a source of vibrancy for Bethlehem?

Jeff Parks: Bethlehem has, very much like Lancaster, parts that were really old and authentic, and then parts that were worker housing and the Bethlehem Steel plant. It was a real mix. But, Bethlehem has a long history of music. The Moravians were the first in the New World to use music in Bethlehem. For many of the classical composers, a lot of their compositions were first performed in Bethlehem before they were performed in New York or Philadelphia.

I understand that when you proposed Musikfest, in your original concept paper, you drew some similarities to Lancaster and Lancaster’s tourism industry, right?

JP: We absolutely did. We cited the fact that, first of all, in a steel town, nobody even thought about tourism. Nobody even cared about tourism, because you could walk out the door of the high school that I went to, cross the river and get $16 an hour for a labor job. But yes, when we presented the paper, we talked about Lancaster, which I believe was at that time the fourth-largest tourism attraction in the country. We used that as an example of the fact that tourism was a legitimate opportunity for a business model.

And Musikfest was inspired by an event in Milwaukee called Summerfest?

JP: Correct. At the time I proposed Musikfest, I’d been to the Oktoberfest in Germany, been to a couple of more robust street festivals in Germany and Austria. We had friends who were living in Milwaukee, and we went to visit them over July Fourth weekend and experienced Summerfest, which is a child of Oktoberfest, and Musikfest is a grandchild of Oktoberfest.

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