Summer Camp Music Festival goes virtual, how COVID-19 has impacted the annual music event


CHILLICOTHE Ill. (WMBD) — Normally on Memorial Day Weekend, thousands of people from all over the nation would travel to Three Sister’s Park in Chillicothe for Summer Camp Music Festival, but COVID-19 forced people to stay home and organizers have rescheduled the event.

To keep the tradition going, founder, Ian Goldberg, put together a Virtual Summer Camp for fans to enjoy over the holiday weekend. The three-day event gave people the opportunity to stream live performances, throwback Summer Camp sets, interviews and panels with musicians, yoga and much more. Tickets were sold to the streaming event with part of the proceeds going to various non-profit organizations such as Backline, Headcount, and Conscious Alliance, and also to the artists and their crews.

The Virtual Summer Camp schedule of various live performances, interviews, and past Summer Camp sets.

Goldberg said even during a pandemic, he wanted to give Summer Camp goers an opportunity to be able to still celebrate the yearly gathering this weekend.

“As you know, this was supposed to be our 20th anniversary for Summer Camp this weekend, and we were disappointed that circumstances are not going to allow us to all gather at Three Sisters Park. A couple weeks back, we were discussing, and kinda had this idea of, ‘what can we do to still celebrate it?’ And of course the idea of doing it online came up and it just kinda blossomed from there. Originally it was just going to be a couple artists like Moe. and Umphrey’s McGee, but then it just kind of kept going and going and more people wanted to get involved.”

-Ian Goldberg, Founder of Summer Camp Music Festival

Summer Camp Music Festival is a three day live music festival held at Three Sister’s Park annually over Memorial Day Weekend. The festival has hosted a range of talent over the years, from bands like Primus, Tom Petty’s Mudcrutch, Steve Miller Band, The Avett Brothers, Zac Brown Band and many more. Starting back in 2001, Summer Camp Music Festival had about ten bands on the lineup with roughly 1,500 people who came out to the event. From there, the festival grew.

In 2003, a jam band out of the Chicago area known as Umphrey’s McGee, started headlining the festival. By 2005, Umphrey’s McGee became the festival’s partner band, and they’ve worked together ever since. Other major headliners that joined the festival included Willie Nelson in 2009, by which that time, over 10,000 people attended the festival. Goldberg says by 2014, he was getting calls from bands that wanted to play at the festival, including popular country band, Zac Brown Band.

“We were getting calls from Zac Brown Band, asking if they could be a part of it. And interesting story, literally six months later, they played for us in May, and in September I believe it was, they sold out Wrigley Field in Chicago. It was a really monumental moment to have a band at that stature asking us if they could play Summer Camp.

-Ian Goldberg, Founder of Summer Camp Music Festival

Joel Cummins, founder and pianist for the band Umphrey’s McGee says Summer Camp Music Festival has been part of their summer tour for years.

“Summer Camp has became our home festival, and I know our fans love it as much as we do. It’s really the kick-off to summer touring season for all of us. Being able to do that in a beautiful part of Illinois which is kind of centrally located for a lot of our fan base. It’s always something we look forward to. It’s not just getting to perform for everyone, but it’s always such an amazing experience, getting to watch other performers there, too. From Willie Nelson to The Roots, Jason Isbell, Jane’s Addiction, I think that’s something where it kind of feels like family to us.”

Joel Cummins, Umphrey’s McGee

Being one of the biggest music events in Central Illinois, Summer Camp has a positive impact for the local economy as well.

“Kroger is one of the number one grocery chains across the country. And as you can probably imagine, Memorial Day Weekend is a big number for grocery stores everywhere. Over Memorial Day Weekend one year, the Kroger in Chillicothe, Illinois was the number one performing store in the whole chain. That can give you an idea of the impact of Summer Camp on the local community. Of course that spreads to Peoria and other areas with the hotels and restaurants and everything. We’re fortunate to be there and fortunate to have such a welcoming local community.”

-Ian Goldberg, Founder of Summer Camp Music Festival
Summer Camp Music Festival now rescheduled for August 21-23 due to COVID-19 concerns

Summer Camp Music Festival has been rescheduled for August 21st- 23rd. As of now, the event is still planned to go on. Goldberg says it’s now a waiting game to see how conditions with COVID-19 are towards the end of the summer. He says if by August, it’s unsafe to hold a music festival, the event will be cancelled in order to protect everyone’s safety.

Post COVID-19, when things start to return to normal, Cummins says he hopes people can enjoy live music the same way as before.

“Hopefully we’ll get back to the way things were and everyone will be able to enjoy live music again. I think that’s the one thing right now, we are all missing that connection with each other. There’s something really special that happens when live music brings people together and all of our difference melt away. For me, that’s what I am looking forward to the most, when we are able to perform a show again.”

-Joel Cummins, Umphrey’s McGee

If you missed out on the Virtual Summer Camp, you can still get a pass. The virtual festival will be available on demand until June 17th. Tickets for the rescheduled event in August can be found on the Summer Camp website.

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