September 6, 2013

Colby, Waterville music festival discontinued; students to help with downtown Harvest Fest

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE — An annual music festival sponsored in part by Colby College will not continue this year, according to event organizers.

click image to enlarge

Fans dance to the musical styling of Rustic Overtones at a past Hill 'n the Ville Music Festival at the Head of Falls on Front Street in Downtown Waterville.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Hill ’n the Ville, a free day of live music, food and activities, has marked the end of summer every year since 2007, when Colby students and the Waterville Main Street program started it to connect city residents and college students better. 

Colby students instead will participate in hosting Harvest Fest, which is scheduled for Oct. 6 and will have activities similar to those of Hill ’n the Ville, but will have less of a concert atmosphere, according to Jennifer Olsen, executive director of Waterville Main Street, an organization designed to develop and advance downtown’s commercial, social and cultural offerings. No bands have been booked for the event, she said.

“It is going to be different than what its been in other years. One of the things we’re trying to do is have it be a truly student-led event and to really interact with the community a bit more,” Olsen said.

The city’s Harvest Fest, which traditionally has included hay rides, scarecrow-making and pumpkin-carving, also will include a Colby presence this year, with clubs and student groups showcasing what they do. Colby a cappella groups also will perform.

“Rather than Colby kids sitting in pockets and Waterville kids sitting in pockets in front of a stage, this will give them a reason to interact,” said Sam Helm, assistant director of student life at Colby.

Giving students an opportunity to interact with the community is an important way of welcoming them to campus in the fall and also offers them a chance to make bonds that go beyond Mayflower Hill, he said.

Helm said the change was student-driven and had to do with students wanting a better way to interact with the Waterville community. He also said the scheduling of Hill ’n the Ville, which typically falls on the first weekend after students return to campus, made it hard to plan and hard for students to attend.

Hill ’n the Ville usually brought four or five bands to play on a Saturday at the Head of Falls park, although last year the event expanded to eight bands that played over two days, said City Councilman Erik Thomas, who has helped organize the event. Acts have included the Boston-based band State Radio, led by frontman Chad Stokes, also of the band Dispatch; and singer-songwriter Matt Costa, who has toured with Jack Johnson, Modest Mouse and others.

Thomas said attendance of Colby students was partly dependent on how much student leadership wanted to promote the event on campus, something that changed from year to year, but that the festival typically drew 500 to 2,000 people.

He said a lot of people in the community have said they are disappointed the event is no longer taking place.

“The people who went really enjoyed it. I didn’t realize how much people looked forward to it until now that it’s not happening,” he said.

Thomas said that although Colby students are involved in other activities in Waterville, such as volunteering, the South End Neighbors Association and Colby Cares Day, there are no events similar to what Hill ’n the Ville was.

Olsen said that although Hill ’n the Ville will not continue, Waterville Main Street is looking forward to working with Colby students and other young people on the Harvest Fest.

“This is the first year we’re doing this, so it’s going to be a little bumpy; but I think we have a good group, and it has the capacity to be a great event,” she said.

Rachel Ohm —  612-2368
rohm@mainetoday.com

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