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Fogelberg weekend is illuminating

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I met a delightful couple of women from Virginia on Saturday. I also met a woman from New York City, another from Birmingham, some people from California and Texas.

It wasn't at the airport. It was in downtown Peoria. All were here for the celebration to honor Dan Fogelberg on what would have been his 60th birthday.

The weekend-long event included a party, tours of some of the local spots that helped define one of Peoria's most famous natives, a picnic at the Dan Fogelberg Memorial on the riverfront, and culminated with a concert of his music -- almost all from his Innocent Age album that was his biggest commercial success.

I met all those people because I was asked by event organizers -- Fogelberg classmates at Glen Oak School and Woodruff High School, mainly -- to be one of the tour guides Saturday morning. Being a fan of the man, I was honored to hop on one of the trolleys and show folks some Peoria landmarks that meant something to Fogelberg, his family and his friends.

What I learned from the people who took the tour and from the distances they people traveled to be here this weekend was that Fogelberg was more than just successful. He was loved and respected by countless fans.

What I learned from the concert by the Acoustical All-Stars was that Peoria is amazing, like I didn't know that already. But the amount of talent in this city is something we should all be proud of.

The organizers of the Fogelberg weekend did well in showing that pride, making the guests feel welcomed and part of something special. One gentleman on the second of four tours I conducted said he had no idea what a special city and area Peoria is. Many others were surprised at the size of the metro area.

One person said he earlier envisioned Peoria as a small town and that giving the world someone with the talents of Dan Fogelberg was "more or less an accident." He said he was here for the first two Fogelberg weekends -- in 2009 and last summer -- and learned that this area seems to nurture talent.

I told him I wished he could have joined my wife and me the night before to watch some of that talent burst onto the stage at Eastlight Theatre in its production of Hairspray. That show started a great and enjoyable weekend of culture for us, but we have seen countless times in many local venues the kind of talent that exists here.

We all need to be proud of that talent, but also work to promote it our own ways. We need to encourage more people to come out and celebrate and support that talent by attending events at the theaters, the concert venues, the art displays. None of these things can happen without support; financial support such as ticket sales, yes, but also the kind of support that builds morale and makes the artists believe it's worthwhile.

It is nice to hope the corporate world gives matching funds to enable Peoria to get some of that federal grant money that Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, talked about when he visited last week. But the first line of support should be the patronage of our residents. We need to let corporate Peoria know we support the arts; we need to let talented Peorians know we support them.


About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).