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The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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November 29, 2023

Bannockburn’s Music Festival meets tropical storm Ophelia

Celia Noya
During this year’s event, the Bannockburn skies turned gray, and rain poured torrentially, but determined community members followed through with their annual tradition.

Normally, the sun would shine down on crowds of chattering neighbors, warming them as they made their way down the street, refreshments in hand. They’d gather at the Bannockburn Clubhouse, drawn to the charismatic band set up on the grass. Musicians would strum a few notes to welcome the eager audience before launching into a familiar song. While the audience waited for the next performance to begin, they would socialize and laugh with one another in the beautiful weather, enjoying the annual Bannockburn neighborhood music festival. 

During this year’s event, the Bannockburn skies turned gray, and rain poured torrentially, but determined community members followed through with their annual tradition.

Due to weather from tropical storm Ophelia, this year’s festival didn’t reflect its usual designs. Originally, the festival was meant to be a “Lawnapalooza,” with bands at three locations: the Bannockburn Clubhouse, the Bannockburn Swim Club and a house on East Halbert Road. The idea was for neighbors to move between locations and bands at their leisure from 2-7 p.m. on Sept. 23. However, due to weather warnings, organizers shortened the event and moved it inside the Bannockburn Clubhouse, rebranded as an open mic festival from 2-5 p.m. Although smaller and untraditional, the open mic still gave community members a chance to perform and create new connections.

The annual music festival first kicked off in 2011 at the Bannockburn Clubhouse. It originated as a lively opportunity for a tighter-knit community to come together while celebrating live music. After a successful debut, the event became a neighborhood favorite, said Jody Myers, one of the festival’s founders. As an event organizer and electric and stand-up bass player, Myers has been behind the scenes and in the spotlight for over a decade. 

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“It’s a really nice way for people who are not professional musicians, but who enjoy playing music of various kinds, to put a performance date on the calendar,” Myers said. “And the community enjoys it as well.”

Organizers begin preparations in June, first deciding on the festival’s design and then where it will take place. The venue is typically a single stage at the Bannockburn Clubhouse or a combination of well-known areas throughout Bannockburn and people’s lawns — aptly named a “Lawnapalooza.” At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival transitioned from the Bannockburn Clubhouse to the “Lawnapalooza” format due to nationwide health restrictions and community comfort. Post-COVID, the design changes yearly, generally a combination of “Lawnapalooza” and the original single-staged music festival. 

After organizers decide the festival format, they begin searching for musicians to perform at the event. Usually, at least one member of each band lives in the Bannockburn neighborhood, forging a stronger connection between the band and the audience. The intergenerational factor of the music festival makes it special and appealing for all ages, Myers said.

“I have a lot of nice memories of people that I didn’t even know play music just being awesome,” Myers said. “Half [the performers] are kids who show up with their high school bands and everybody loves it.”

Apart from bringing musicians together, the festival also raises money to help maintain the historic Bannockburn Clubhouse, a staple of the community since 1912. While the festival wasn’t intended to be a fundraiser, the contribution is a welcomed benefit. When bands perform on the Clubhouse stage, ticket sales raise money. Lawnapalooza, however, is donation-based, said Pamela Toole, an organizer and vocalist in the festival.

“The board will have their Venmo code around so that if people are inspired they can send in some donations for the clubhouse,” Toole said. “It’s not designed to be a fundraiser. It’s just if people are inspired because they’re having such a great time.”

This year, Whitman’s Drumline planned to join the festivities, playing as an opening and closing act at Bannockburn Clubhouse, but the weather prevented their participation. Senior Violet Learn, leader of the Drumline’s bass section, grew up volunteering at the festival and brought the idea of playing in it to Drumline’s attention. They were excited to play for a new kind of audience, Learn said. 

“We all know personally the pep that drumline can bring to sports games and the talent show,” Learn said, “but bringing our music to this different environment seemed like a really interesting endeavor.” 

The annual Newcomer’s Welcome Dinner is typically during the winter and is not a part of the festival, but this year organizers planned to hold it from 7-8:30 p.m., following Drumline’s closing act. However, the dinner was unfortunately postponed to Oct. 28 due to childcare complications from the storm. Exclusively open to adults, the event usually consists of a full dinner where both old and new members of the neighborhood gather to meet one another. This year, organizers planned it directly after the festival, and guests would bring drinks and desserts to share, Toole said.

Both the music festival and Newcomer’s Welcome aim to bring the community together, whether over live music, supporting friends and family or welcoming others to the neighborhood. For musicians, Bannockburn’s uplifting community allows them to perform in an encouraging environment, Toole said.

“I would stress that the stage is always open,” she said. “We’re always looking for new talent, like Whitman bands or whoever. Every person should be encouraged to participate in the future.”

Despite last-minute obstacles, the Bannockburn neighborhood was able to host its beloved music festival, once again bringing the community together. For Toole, the chance for anyone to play music makes the festival special. 

“It gives people the opportunity to get their nerve, put something together and live their dreams,” Toole said. “It’s nice to have all of that and to really support everybody.”

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About the Contributor
Celia Noya, Feature Writer
Grade 11 Why did you join The B&W? I started writing for my schools newspaper in Elementary School and instantly loved it. I joined the Black and White to continue writing, to connect with my community, and to listen to people's stories and experiences. What is your favorite song? How Far I'll Go from Moana  

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