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Written By: Michael Laughlin,  Gettysburg Festival Intern, Gettysburg College Class of 2010

I’m not sure that I have ever attended a festival of any type, let alone a fine arts festival. At least I can’t remember ever being at one. I say let alone a fine arts festival not because there is something wrong with the fine arts but because they were never really on my radar screen. Growing up I was always more interested in John Madden than Jean Valjean, Bruce Springsteen than Miles Davis and New York pizza than flambé. I was a product of the times perhaps.

So how does a Gettysburg College frat guy with no festival experience end up working for the fine arts Gettysburg Festival? Taking things a step further how could I possibly make a positive contribution? I guess the answer has more to do with serendipity, frat guys know big words too, than anything else. Checking emails one day I came across one about a marketing/pr internship with the Festival. Considering my mom had recently laid the guilt trip that I do nothing but hang out, waste my free time, and destroy my mind with video games/action movies, I decided to check it out. At least if I was involved with the Festival I could watch Die Hard in peace right? So after a phone call and a visit I began working at the Festival as an intern.

First day impressions –> I’m the only guy in the office but everyone is really nice and the work seems ok, I can handle this. Since the first day my impressions and experiences have changed dramatically. Now everyone yells at me and the chain they put on my ankle is really tight. Ok a poor attempt at humor but in all seriousness my experience has changed. I have had the opportunity to see the arts from a new perspective. I’ve been able to hear some jazz and see Lincoln artwork. Besides the exposure to new art I’ve been able to take a fresh look at what I’m already familiar with. For example instead of just focusing on Bruce I’ve started listening to Clarence Clemons. Clemons is the sax player in Bruce’s E-Street Band but has a solo rock/jazz/funk style of his own. Perhaps Miles Davis is the next step.

I’d like to think my internship has been mutually beneficial. In addition to other responsibilities I’ve played a large role in trying to bring a younger demographic to the Festival. I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on meetings and give input of my own. Input on what someone my age is probably interested in, how much they will spend on a specific event and what’s going to make them stop playing video games and come to the Festival. I’ve been focusing on event ideas that could bridge the gap between younger and older generations with something that appeals to both. Not an easy task. I think my input has been valuable for the staff in understanding what will and won’t bring the younger audience in. I’d like to expose some of the older attendees to some aspect of my generation and my experiences. The same way that my horizons have been broadened through the fine arts I feel others could have their horizons broadened by younger art. Even if they don’t consider it “art” right now. In the same process the younger attendees would be exposed, as I have been, to jazz, brass, theatre, culinary, and visual arts.

I think that is what the Gettysburg Festival is best at: exposing people to something new, blending old and new experiences for people of all demographics, and leaving them with a changed perspective. I’m happy that I’ve had the opportunity to both experience this firsthand and make a positive contribution in bringing it to others.

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