Thursday, July 25, 2002

Tall Stacks 2003

Pin one on and come to riverfront

        Huge hopes hinge on a small pin.

        One and a half inches of metal and plastic in bronze, blue and burgundy make up the $12 pin. That's the ticket to the 2003 Tall Stacks Music, Arts & Heritage Festival.

        Good for the entire Oct. 15-19 run of the 2003 event, the pin has great potential.

        It goes beyond admitting 500,000-plus visitors to this riverfront festival of music, food, fireworks, history lessons and riverboats.

        The Tall Stacks pin could also give strife-torn Cincinnati a needed dose of community spirit and civic pride.

        Festivalgoers will have a chance to recognize the city's roots and appreciate the cooperation that built this river town. They might even come away determined to make

        Cincinnati an even better place to live.

In the beginning

        Tall Stacks occurs in a most appropriate spot, in the place where the city began, down by the river.

        “The riverboats Tall Stacks honors carried different forms of music from port to port,” said Mike Smith, the festival's executive director.

        “This helped develop all the genres of music in America today. The festival plans to make a direct link between those ports, that music, the people and the river.”

        As he spoke, he was linked to the Ohio via the Mississippi Queen.

        Docked at the Public Landing, the riverboat served as the site of Tuesday's floating press conference announcing plans for Tall Stacks 2003.

        After the press conference, Tall Stacks' executive director eased into a chair on the boat's observation deck. As the river rolled by and crewmen prepared to serve lunch, he talked about his hopes for the festival and the power of a pin.

        To stem declining crowds, Tall Stacks 2003 plans to feature more popular performers. Those acts cost more. So, the price of admission to the festival has increased.

        “That's why we had to give the people something tangible instead of a paper ticket,” Mike Smith said, “We needed to give them something they'll keep, something for their money.”

        That tangible something is a pin in the shape of the Tall Stacks logo with its twin steamboat smokestacks.

        The pin concept wasn't Mike Smith's idea. “We stole it,” he said, “from the Kentucky Derby Festival.”

        Even so, that still puts Tall Stacks 2003 among a handful of events of its scope to use a pin to gain admission.

Drawing power

        The pin's potential extends beyond the festival's 100-acre site.

        Restaurants and shops in downtown Cincinnati and Newport on the Levee could give discounts to pin-wearers.

        Area museums could offer reduced admissions to anyone sporting a pin. That could bring more visitors to the Cincinnati Art Museum's Cincinnati Wing slated to open May 17.

        On a more personal level, the pin can bring anyone face to face with Cincinnati's past and point toward a hopeful future.

        The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, whose construction should be well under way during Tall Stacks 2003, has joined the festival.

        The Freedom Center plans to present displays showing the roles blacks played in building steamboats and how slaves fleeing the south stowed away on paddlewheelers going up river, bound for the freedom.

        Arriving in Cincinnati, on the very riverfront that hosts Tall Stacks, those runaway slaves were saved by conductors along the underground railroad.

        That shared bravery exemplified the good that can come from Cincinnati when people work together.

        If Tall Stacks 2003 can help rekindle that spirit of cooperation, that $12 pin will be priceless.

        Call Cliff Radel at 768-8379; or e-mail



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