Identify a problem or need, then find a way to solve it. This is how great ideas are born. And this was exactly how Common Roots Music Festival begin in 2017.
In the summer of 2017, historic Fifth Ave in downtown St. Cloud underwent a significant and much needed construction project to not only repair the deteriorating street but to add additional aesthetic improvements. Though excited about the widened sidewalks, built-in planters, new metered parking and street lights, Fifth Ave businesses were incredibly disappointed to learn the project would last the majority of the summer months, severally limiting foot traffic and parking options.
One small group of musicians and artists got together, upon observing the toll the construction project was taking on some of their favorite businesses, and posed the single question that ignited the idea for Common Roots: “What can we do to support the businesses and venues who support our arts and culture?”
From that simple question stemmed hundreds of conversations in the Saint Cloud area with dozens of local volunteers and community leaders who deeply care about our downtown. These lovers of music and the arts began building the foundation that would encapsulate the commonalities of why they loved downtown Saint Cloud.
What resulted was the grassroots initiative to produce Common Roots, a three-day, multi-venue music festival that celebrated music, art and downtown St. Cloud, with the primarily goal of inviting the community to experience downtown despite the construction.
With only eight short weeks to prepare, the core Common Roots leadership team, without a budget or much experience building a music festival, knew the narrative behind the project and the vision they had for downtown would be the driving force of the event.
Deeply rooted in connecting neighbors to each other, local business owners, and amazing original, live, and local talent, organizers aimed to bring all walks of life together to celebrate the local music that makes Central Minnesota vibrant. A new narrative about downtown and Saint Cloud was developed to cut through any lingering misconceptions about who we are as a community.
Hundreds of phone calls, dozens of meetings, sleeplessness nights, tension filled conversations, and rolling laughter with friends would define the work behind the scenes. The first public meeting hosted at the Pioneer Place theatre was electric as more and more people wanted to be a part of this grassroots project. Video testimonials went viral on social about why a vehicle for local musicians was so important, and why we should celebrate and support the local businesses who host them.
On the first evening of Common Roots, hundreds of people showed up to the Red Carpet Nightclub for the inaugural kickoff event with live performances by local comedians, burlesque, and drag performers. On Friday and Saturday night, hundreds more packed downtown venues to see and experience over 200+ local musicians.
Volunteers were selling buttons, guiding patrons, and quite literally running sound equipment to and from venues. The streets were filled with all ages, backgrounds, and beliefs, but they all came because of what they had in common: a love of music and community.
This year, the leadership team of Common Roots is trying some new things. There will be an outdoor bizarre on Saturday, August 25th with an outdoor stage, local art vendors, and a dunk tank with “local celebrities”. While there are new musicians and returning favorites, the group’s mission hasn’t changed a bit.
While Common Roots is still very grassroots and volunteer lead, the core team has learned a lot from planning year two and are looking forward to applying those lessons to 2019. But, as the second annual Common Roots Festival approaches, one thing that you can expect from last year is a large and wide variety of sites and sounds that demonstrates the strength and variety of the Central Minnesota music scene.
Dates: August 23, 24, 25
Admission Button: $10 (gets you access for all 3 days + a host of additional discounts)