By Marge Neal (East County Times, 7/11/18)
Essex Day will have a bright, shiny new face to show off when the 43rd annual community festival takes over Eastern Boulevard this fall.
For the first time in the event’s history, organizers believe, Essex Day will be held on a Saturday, with longer hours, more entertainment and a day of the week that is hopefully more attractive to vendors, sponsors and attendees, according to Essex Day volunteer Brian Marchetti.
“We’re very excited about the changes we’re making to Essex Day this year, and we’re very excited about our new partnership with Starleigh Entertainment,” Marchetti told the East County Times. “Starleigh has made a very generous sponsorship offer and what used to be known as the Main Stage will now be known as the Starleigh Entertainment Stage.”
The committee approached Rob Baier, president of Starleigh, to begin planning the entertainment.
Baier, who was born and raised in Middle River, made the sponsorship offer unsolicited, Marchetti said.
“We didn’t even have to ask; he made the offer. We couldn’t be more grateful that they’re doing this,” Marchetti said of Starleigh. “And I think that if Rob wasn’t a local guy, this doesn’t happen. They want to be part of the community and give back to Essex.”
“We are really excited to be a part of this,” Baier told the Times. “I played in Essex Day when I was about 19 and the old Midway Cafe was still there, so it’s pretty cool to be able to do this.”
Baier, now 47, has come full circle as a co-owner – along with Gary Hutson – of the entertainment booking company that he used as a young performer.
With Baier’s band, Kanye Twitty, already announced as a Starleigh Stage attraction, he shared with the Times the rest of the headliner bands for that stage: Red Dirt Revolution, Tripwire and Dean Crawford and the Dunn’s River Band.
“We think we have a great lineup so far,” Baier said. “The music side used to be such a great part of Essex Day and then it seemed to fall by the wayside a bit. We’re really hoping the live music moves forward in a positive manner and brings people back in.”
Baier said fair organizers approached him about booking his band and began a conversation that ended with the sponsorship offer.
“They were looking for sponsors and I was interested in being a sponsor so this worked out well,” Baier said. “It’s just a perfect fit for both of us.”
Marchetti estimates the value of the sponsorship to be in the $7,000 range. Starleigh, “the region’s most diversified provider of quality entertainment,” according to its website, is making a donation to Essex Day that will “essentially cover the costs of the bands, the sound system, the backline equipment and crew,” Marchetti said.
Past festivals have had three stages: the main stage, a Christian music stage and a karaoke spot. Organizers will add a “homegrown” stage this year, with the hope of featuring local talent just getting started. While in the early stages of planning, Marchetti said organizers think the new stage will add tremendously to the fair’s entertainment offerings.
The Saturday fair will have hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., as opposed to the noon to 5 p.m. hours of past Sunday events, according to Marchetti, which will mean additional bands and attractions on all four stages.
With the move to Saturday, Marchetti said the organizing committee is preparing to set up a fair infrastructure that will accommodate a significant increase in attendance.
“With the move from Sunday to Saturday we won’t be competing with the Ravens, and we just think Saturday will work better for more vendors and attendees and be more convenient for businesses along the boulevard,” Marchetti said.
The fair occupies Eastern Boulevard from Mace Avenue to Woodward Drive in the heart of downtown Essex. In addition to four stages of entertainment, the event will offer a kids’ area; costumed characters; arts and crafts; free tours of the Heritage Society of Essex and Middle River; novelty, sports and food vendors; carnival rides; nonprofit organizations; and local businesses.
With just over two months until show time, organizers are busy recruiting sponsors, with a variety of financial levels available to suit both businesses and individuals, according to Marchetti.
For the first time, an Essex Day T-shirt will be produced. The logos of all multi-level sponsors will be printed on the back, and all individual sponsors who contribute $25 will receive a free shirt, according to festival sponsorship publicity.
All sponsorships are due by Aug. 15. For more information regarding sponsorship opportunities, call 443-579-4913 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marchetti said he and his five fellow committee members, led by President Paul Rufe, are looking forward to the new Essex Day and hope residents are pleased with the results. They hope the move to Saturday, the new partnership with Starleigh and expanded activities and fair-goer opportunities “bring new life to Essex Day” and put it on an upward trajectory for the future.