Everyone knows it’s windy.
Go ahead, start humming the tune now. You’ll be doing it soon enough, you might as well get a head start.
In the spring of 2015, the staff at the Centre Foundation encouraged participants in Centre Gives, its online giving event, to create simple videos to publicize their efforts. My festival colleagues and I riffed on the previous summer’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon with a short iPhone video about our well-loved dumping buckets water feature. Lots of people liked the video, and after meeting our goal in Centre Gives, as promised, I took a couple of direct hits from buckets of water emptied by my co-workers Carol and Jennifer. It was all great fun…but a tough act to follow.
This year, we decided to promote giving through Centre Gives with another video while reminding our supporters that we’ll be celebrating our 50th Festival in July. Dressed in my nephew’s genuine USAF fatigue jacket, a headband from Holly Foy, the co-chair of our Italian Street Painting Festival, and holding a protest sign that urged us to “Make Art, Not War” I reminded viewers about Centre Gives accompanied by a recording of Windy, the top song in the U.S. in July 1967, during the first Arts Festival.
Windy is one of those songs you just can’t get out of your head. It was recorded by a pop group of six men from California called The Association, which to me, at least, sounds like a criminal organization from a John Grisham book. The Association was enormously successful and was the opening act at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, seen by some music aficionados as the precursor to Woodstock.
In addition to Windy, the group had a bunch of hits including Cherish and Along Came Mary, all of which stay with you, like a burdock burr stuck to a sock. People my age know the tunes from their older siblings’ record collections, compilations by K-Tel sold on late night television (“Available on 8-track and cassette! Call before midnight tonight!”), and, of course, background music in elevators.
Even though we didn’t hit our enormously ambitious goal of raising $50,000 – a thousand bucks for each of our fifty festivals – we did well. We raised more than $30,000 with gifts from 160 donors, won $1,000 in prize money, and will receive matching funds from the Centre Foundation. A noble effort, I think, especially considering the technical problems that plagued the event. We’re optimists and are confident that we’ll get to our goal sooner or later. We’re still accepting donations to our annual fund, and you can help us get closer to our goal by donating here.
Because we’ll eventually get to $50,000, and because in 2016 everyone gets a trophy, the Festival family came together to make good on my promise to sing Windy.
In more than just the choice of songs, our new video has quite a lot in common with the first Festival.
It’s a slightly improvised community effort, organize by people who’re accustomed to coming together to get things done. Our singers include the Police Chief, a Presbyterian pastor, a retired Federal judge, an electrical engineer, and someone recruited to play field hockey at Penn State. And that’s just part of the back row! Our group included board members, volunteers, artists, musicians, and even someone who’d been to the very first Festival. Much of the success of the effort is due to the gracious help of Ned Wetherald and the members of the State College Presbyterian Church choir.
As in 1967, we’ll reach a wider audience than would have been possible just a few years earlier. Forty-nine years ago, festival programming was shared over the relatively new phenomenon of public television, on Penn State’s brand new “educational TV” station WPSX-TV, Channel 3. Today, we’ll be sharing this video in cyberspace though social media—through Facebook, Twitter, and the Festival’s blog. Our audience will be well beyond the folks who could cram into the choir room of the State College Presbyterian Church.
And perhaps most importantly, everyone involved had had fun. People left the room with The Association’s eminently hummable melody stuck in their head, and talking about how we should do it again—perhaps singing Cherish—and making it even better next time.