The Georgefest Groove

You Can Dance if You Want To:  How one very likable festival brand may have been boosted by a city’s attempt to suppress public dancing

In its first 18 months, Georgefest had attracted more than 9,000 social media followers.
Georgefest is a nightlife event held at Historic Downtown St. George, Utah, on the first Friday of every month from 6 p.m. to midnight. Established in 2014, the event is the first of its kind in southern Utah and was created to celebrate the best of local artists, entertainers and live musicians. What event organizers did not see coming was the early success of the event.
With an attendance goal of 1,000 at the event’s debut in June 2014, event designers at Emceesquare Media were “blown away” by the turnout of an estimated 3,000. By July, attendance estimations reached 7,000 and have maintained a steady pace between March and October, according to Marianne Hamilton, Georgefest media/PR manager. “We knew this type of event was needed in our community,” Hamilton said. “But we had no idea how many would show up to offer their support.”
Not only did event attendees show up, they keep returning. According to Hamilton, “We are delighted that so many members of the community make Georgefest a monthly tradition.” The success of Georgefest has not only propelled it into pop culture, it has also written a chapter or two already in local history.

George Streetfest is All of Us! from Emceesquare Media Inc. on Vimeo.

“Pop culture is comprised of the everyday objects, actions and events that influence people to believe and behave in certain ways,” according to Deanna D. Sellnow’s “What is Pop Culture and Why Study It.”  Sellnow claims they do so by proposing a particular perspective about what is “good” and “bad,” “appropriate” or “inappropriate,” “desirable” and “undesirable.”
What Georgefest can proudly take credit for is promoting what is desirable about southern Utah. The event celebrates the people of the community, and while the event design offers consistency and likable brand, it proudly boasts its own ability to offer something fun for everyone. Residents of all ages turn out each month to enjoy various aspects of the venue.
Perhaps all eyes on Georgefest came after an incident that threw St. George City into the national spotlight following an October 2014 event involving St. George law enforcement officers. Something city leaders may very well wish to forget, dancing at a community event was shut down by local law enforcement officers who remained on the property to ensure that further dancing did not break out.
According to an article in St. George News, “The prohibition came as a result of the city’s position that the event promoters had not complied with permitting requirements, a position the promoter has said came after issuing a permit stamped “approved.” The nationally televised show “Saturday Night Live” immediately seized the opportunity to enlist Kevin Bacon’s role in the 1985 movie “Footloose” to make fun of the conservative Utah community – much like the plot of the popular film-turned-Broadway event.

The news article continued:  “The spoof apparently stems from the city’s actions over a disputed dance permit for a Monster Mash party on Oct. 24 hosted by Heart of Dixie Events LLC at Fiesta Fun Center in St. George; St. George Police showed up with a strong presence to ensure no dancing took place.”

Perhaps the everyday acts of singing and dancing, paired with the city’s desire to control residents regarding the act, is what fueled so much community support for Georgefest – an event designed to promote live music, dancing, gathering at the center of town for enjoying the company of friends and neighbors. For dancing to be allowed at a public event, city permits require an event application and approval for the request to dance.

Whatever the reason, St. George has taken Georgefest under its wing, and it is apparent the venue will not be disappearing any time soon. According to Hamilton, event permits are approved and in place for many events to come. Additionally, St. George City police officers can often be seen walking and biking the venue engaging in friendly interaction with event attendees and even posing for selfies with attendees of all ages.

And worth final mention, each month at the center of downtown St. George, there is plenty of dancing. Georgefest has even gone so far as to hire its own maestro of boogie, DJ Spinz, who is community famous for keeping the party hopping. At Georgefest, you can dance if you want to.

Discussion:

  • In a tourist destination that offers many outdoor recreation opportunities like hiking, biking, golfing and water boarding, why do you think Georgefest has quickly worked its way to the top of “things to do” lists in southern Utah?
  • What pop culture artifacts contribute to the popularity of Georgefest?
  • Do you think the parallel to Kevin Bacon’s “Footloose” is a fair attachment to make to St. George City?