In an early vision of this festival I saw a venue where unrecognized artists could show their talents to the world. It was a simple affair, maybe lasting only one day, something our Church could easily pull off… But then we discovered the history of Waterloo’s “North End”
The North End of Waterloo has been the historical starting point for many of the ethnic groups that came to Waterloo. It was the entry point of the Italians, the Greeks, the Russians, the Germans, the African Americans, and many others. It was in fact the home of the very people that loaded the train cars, slaughtered the hogs, built the tractors, laid the bricks, and drove the nails that helped Waterloo rise from the grasslands of Iowa.
Knowing that, there was no longer anyway we could think small. With the recognition of this history the real planning of our Festival began and as we progressed we were fortunate to find people that could see the vision, it’s importance, and had the skills to produce such an event.
But even then it wasn’t easy. And some might even say we were all a bit naïve and unprepared to even think we could do this. Because there were road blocks put there by the skeptics who believed that The North End was a dead or dangerous place, people who believed there were bullets flying, people that only read the newspaper or watched the news and had never really spent any time there, much less gotten to know the people. And then there was a history of broken promises and unfinished projects that has plagued this area for many years, and these and other reasons made finding funding and the tools needed to do this a sometimes very frustrating task.
But we had the dream and the determination to continue to produce a festival that could open doors, minds and hearts to the beauty that thrives right under our noses. And because of our persistence we got that and more. Even as now the skeptics will tell you that nobody came, but we know we succeeded in exceeding even our own expectations of this festival.
We opened the door to the future, with the young and talented visual and performing artist’s (our initial goal). We celebrated the present with Effie Burt and Tony Brown, people that came from right here (another part of the vision). And we brought back past, with Etheleen Wright and the Nightingales who brought back the sounds that once were heard along East Fourth Street (this was the bonus).
So now we know it can be done. This was the first Annual North End Fest and we are now, more then ever, determined to continue and to make the festivals to come bigger and better and to begin something that will last into the future so we, our festival, too can become part of the history of the North End.