Events founder predicts 750-1,000 cars

The citywide celebration of the good old days of rock 'n' roll is some three months away, but organizers of Rock 'n' Roll Daze say interest in the second-year event is burgeoning.

Six hotels are already booked and an additional five facilities holding rooms for the event are at 80 percent of capacity, according to Bill West, marketing director at the Missoula Chamber of Commerce.

The inaugural event, held the weekend after the Fourth of July weekend, drew some 13,000 people and more than 400 classic vehicles.

A survey by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana's School of Forestry showed 90 percent of the $366,000 to $454,000 that the event produced was spent in Missoula.

Using the standard formula for calculating the way money is spent and respent in a community, that's a conservative economic impact of $1.3 million, said the Chamber's Kim Latrielle. But the event's founder, Chuck Rose, said there are even better days ahead.

"I'm very confident we're going to have 750 to 1,000 cars," said Rose, who expects 25,000 to 30,000 people to attend the three-day event July 7-9.

"That's a $3 million to $4 million economic impact on Missoula," he said.

Jon "Bowzer" Bauman, of Sha Na Na fame, will serve as master of ceremonies for two nights of sock hops featuring the entertainment of such 1950-'60s luminaries as Lesley Gore, Johnny Rivers, Little Anthony and the Imperials, and Gary Puckett and the Union Gap.

Six acts will be featured each night.

But there will be a host of daytime activities as well, including the Five Valleys Special Olympics trying to make the world's largest milkshake.

Some 400 volunteers poured just shy of 2,000 hours into last year's event and the festival couldn't be done without them, according to Rose and West.

"I really, really try to treat them like the gold that they are," said Rose. "I want them to have fun and want them to know that they are appreciated."

West, who coordinates the volunteers' activities, said not only do they get onto the grounds for free, volunteers also qualify for special drawings.

"Virtually everyone who volunteered last year is more than excited to come back this year," said West.

With a citizen advisory committee holding weekly meetings, things are ahead of schedule.

"It is so much easier to do it the second year because we have a little bit better idea as to what to expect," West said. "Things are going very, very well. It's a lot of fun this year."

VIP seats, which sell for $50 each and are situated in front of the stage, are almost sold out.

Family day passes are $15 and kids under 12 are admitted free during the day. Advance tickets for the sock hops are $21. They're $24 at the gate the night of the show.

Some thought gathering this wealth of talent back-to-back on a single stage would be difficult, but Rose said performers leave their egos in the dressing room and are proud to be associated with a prestigious event.

"They recognize that this just isn't another show," said Rose.

And they like their fans, who can get autographs after all performances.

"One-on-one with the fans is a big thing," he said, "and spectators feel like they made contact with the best times of their lives by getting this autograph and seeing (the singers) face to face after listening to them on the radio for years."

The music, the glittering classic cars, a Silver Auto Auction, cruising town and a host of activities at the Missoula County Fairgrounds, including Friday night's burn-out contest makes for an unprecedented weekend that he expects will attract visitors from every corner of the United States and Canada.

"It's a family-oriented thing, but it's peoples love for that nostalgic period," said Rose. "Whether it's accurate or not, people's perception of that period was that is was lighthearted and fun and carefree, and to relive it with this easy-fun-listening music, let's face it, it's a respite from today's stressful lifestyle."

If you're interested

If you'd like to volunteer for Rock 'n' Roll Daze, want to buy tickets or need more information, call the Missoula Chamber of Commerce, 543-6623.

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