The first year Connie Smith recruited music for Oktoberfest, some other Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce members suggested another style of music might be better next time.
A stage of heavy-metal rockers didn’t quite seem to fit with a plate of bratwurst and beer.
“But those were the only ones I could get for free,” Smith recalled.
Ever since that start in 1997, Smith has worked yearlong with her Chamber committee and friends to find acts and contests providing great entertainment for the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce’s annual festival.
While the concerts are free to the public, it is the Chamber’s biggest fundraiser.
As the event became more established, the Chamber began to pay for bigger-name performers, which helps make Oktoberfest even a more popular feature.
They draw big crowds, who come to see acts such as Beatles tribute band Liverpool or classic rock cover band Charlie and the Stingrays, which is making a reprise appearance at this year’s event on Sept. 28.
Smith, her committee and friends, are on the lookout year-round for talent she can interview and perhaps bring to Lee’s Summit to share their music.
She looks for young people and new bands to help them with exposure, they play earlier leading up to prime time performers, such as the Kaopectones, a group of accomplished area musicians who’ve individually played all over the world will play Sept. 27, Smith said.
She said over the years her committee came up with other ideas for creating activities for the stage during the day. Some flopped, such as brat-eating or root beer-drinking contests, but the wiener-dog parade and baby contests were huge successes.
Nancy Bruns, chamber president, said the main stage has played a role in the festival’s growth and Smith is an important contributor.
“She loves music and we pretty much let her run that show,” Bruns said. She said Smith often is called on to help with other parts of the festival over the weekend.
“She’s like the energizer bunny,” Bruns said.
Smith said music is one of her passions and she enjoys the opportunity to meet talented people and allow them to become known to many more fans.
“That’s my hobby, music and people,” Smith said. “It’s all about keeping live music alive...you know what you get when you add music and people? A party.”