The biggest challenge to running Summer Motion, the festival’s newly named president said Wednesday, is that it’s Summer Motion.
“Summer Motion is a heralded festival, one of the largest in the region. Any time you take on an assignment like that, you know it will be a large undertaking,” said Chris Tatum, who takes the reins of Ashland’s signature festival following the departure of Cade Mahan.
“It’s one I hold dear to my heart,” said Tatum, who has been a festival committee member for 12 years.
Don’t expect any radical changes under Tatum’s leadership — the 39-year-old administrator for the Cabell County Commission says loyal festival audiences have deep-seated expectations after 25 years and he means to meet them.
“Summer Motion has made it 25 years, 25 huge years, when other festivals have gone by the wayside. There’s something to be said for that and for the committee members that made it happen.
“People expect big things from Summer Motion ... people have incorporated it into their lives. The bar is very high for Summer Motion and we all want to hit that mark.”
Perhaps chief among expectations is an entertainment lineup incorporating top national music acts, the iconic A-list names that have packed the riverfront for a quarter of a century. Tatum said the entertainment committee will continue booking acts with the stature and drawing power of the Beach Boys and the Doobie Brothers, to name a couple of former headliners.
“Summer Motion has a lot of activities, but when the sun goes down, they’re looking for top-notch entertainment down at the riverfront,” he said.
To do that, Tatum and his committee have to bring in sponsors and their financial support.
That is a big job in hard economic times when even the regular big donors are pulling back. The answer is mining for new sponsors while continuing to work with old ones, and also probing for other avenues to contribute, he said.
While cash donations pay the bills, in-kind contributions mean fewer bills to pay. For instance, finding a benefactor who can provide barricades or restroom facilities, instead of contracting for those necessities lightens the financial burden, he said.
Tatum said his civic connections, and those of others on the committee, are the key to keeping the festival solvent.
In his Cabell County job and his elected position as a Barboursville City Council member, Tatum maintains relationships with many current — and potential — sponsors, and festival committee members have their own networks, he said. “The 20 or so people on the committee are all connected people who can find, if not the money, then the in-kind help we need,” he said.
Tatum traces his festival roots to his former job at King’s Daughters Medical Center. Recruited as one of the hospital’s many volunteers, he served on the committee coordinating logistics — placement of vendors, games, inflatables and such. Part of that job was coordinating the move between the festival’s two venues, Central Park and the riverfront.
Both will remain prominent for Summer Motion, he said.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2652.