This past Sunday, I, a resident of Allegany County, attended DelFest, as did numerous friends and acquaintances who live here. Many have attended all 10 of these amazing musical and educational celebrations.
The word has always been that these are largely peaceful and profitable events that bring visitors from all over the United States to hear legends in country, bluegrass, folk, gospel, and other genres native to Appalachia land in a setting that cannot be matched in this nation.
The Allegany County Fairgrounds lies beneath towering cliffs nestled into the heart-shaped horizon created by a cleft in Knobley Mountain. The spectacular view also creates a unique and powerful acoustic environment, as noted by the Zambelli fireworks company that frequently choreographs fireworks there. When Del McCoury first saw this setting, he knew he wanted to host his festival here.
Why isn’t the county grateful that, of all places in this nation, Del McCoury chose Allegany County? The fairgrounds don’t have a monopoly on beauty, which Allegany County has in spades. It was that beauty and the availability of the state university in Frostburg that first drew me here from my home in Takoma Park.
Many of my tax dollars have supported visitor/tourism development, and I scratch my head when I hear that county administrators are playing hardball in contract negotiations with this generous family. Aren’t these exactly the dollars this county needs to help revitalize itself?
Del McCoury’s vision in 2008 was not just a blockbuster show that brought great musicians into our backyard but a commitment to the people of this impoverished county that much of the money generated by the festival would remain here and help the neediest of our neighbors and their children.
Again, I am mystified when those who promote private charity instead of tax revenue to help the poor are the ones who would turn away good money when it is so generously offered.
The scuttlebutt is that a county in Pennsylvania is wooing the McCourys even as our own county officials are nickel and diming the family. Why? This family has brought a much-needed chunk of money to this county each year it has graced us with its talent and interest. Does this make even the slightest bit of sense to anyone?
Allegany County’s administrators, if they truly represent our residents, should be begging the family to stay here. The McCourys have donated over $400,000 to the poor of Allegany County, not to mention bringing in profits from DelFest to add to our coffers.
Who or what will replace these much-needed dollars if we don’t have the class and grace to demonstrate gratitude to these folks? Such negotiations lack political insight into economic factors that affect the citizens who have, in many cases, elected these officials.
We don’t want to lose DelFest. We don’t want our county to have been the one to run out this multitalented family with its roots in the mountains that sustain us.
Why aren’t we demonstrating, not only to this family, but to all artists and businesses or festival visitors with their countless backgrounds and talents who might consider again visiting or making Allegany County their home that we appreciate the dollars they spent here and the honor of their having chosen it to do so?
I hope the positive impact of DelFest will prove a big factor in turning around the economic blight that led to Cumberland’s being recently named among 10 poorest cities in the nation in sources such as 247Wallstreet.com.
Keep DelFest in Allegany County. God bless the McCourys.