So far, the top comment is to bring back nationally known headline entertainment.
A few years back, the committee lost some primary sponsorship and donation sources that severely hampered its ability to bring big name entertainers to the City Park on the Fourth of July. Since then, the committee, which had the same main players for nearly 30 years, has seen a lot of turnover.
Now there's a new committee in place, and new Chairman Josh Gilliam told the Times News earlier this month that they're listening to what the community has to say.
“We've been taking a lot of feedback from the community through our Rogersville Fourth of July Facebook page,” Gilliam said. “We've been asking questions on there, taking feedback from the community and trying to get a feel for what folks are looking for on the Fourth and what's most important to them, to try to rekindle the fire in the community around the event.”
How did the committee cope with funding shortfalls last year?
Gilliam: “This past year there was a big focus on local talent as far as the entertainment was concerned. All the focus was on doing home town groups, and also a big focus on the fireworks. We had a good turnout and we were very pleased. Bulls Gap was our headliner this year and put on a great show. Scotty Arnold and his guys always do a good job.”
What type of feedback are you receiving now?
Gilliam: “Of course, everybody wants a household name entertainer. That's probably the biggest thing folks say is “let's get a big headliner.” We're all on board with that. The challenge with anything, and you hear this with all types of events, it's all about funding. That's really the biggest barrier that we face at this point.”
How can you overcome a funding shortfall?
Gilliam: “What we're doing to combat that is to try to start early. It's obviously several months away, but we've already begun reaching out to potential sponsors, already began reaching out to entertainers. We actually are nearing an agreement with an entertainer that we hope folks will be happy with. We're in negotiations with them, and we hope to make an announcement on the headliner very soon. We're hitting the ground running. We're already sending out fundraising letters. We're already putting the framework together to blow this thing out of the water. We want to do it right.”
What other feedback did you receive?
“A lot of people said they would rather have the event on a Saturday rather than on the Fourth. That issue is solved in 2020 because the Fourth is on a Saturday. But that was another comment we heard quite a bit. A lot of people don't want to have it on a weekday. They'd rather have it on a weekend on the Saturday nearest the Fourth. There was also feedback about the high price of food being sold by vendors. We're working to have a diverse set of vendors who can meet everybody's needs.”
What do you want the public to know about the 2020 celebration?
“What we want the public to know at this point is we've got some fresh ideas rolling around in our heads on giving more options of things to do at the park. We've always had food booths, KidsZone and free swimming, along with live entertainment. We're looking at some other ways to get people engaged at the park, whether it’s for kids or adults or both. We're looking at some different options to change the dynamic of the event.”
How important is the celebration to Rogersville?
“The Rogersville Fourth of July is a historic event. My whole life — I'm 31 — and it's been a huge thing my entire life. We just want the public to know that myself and the entire committee, and anybody who is working with us, that's our main goal. To make the Fourth of July in Rogersville an event that people can come out and enjoy and that they can be proud of.”