Name: Lori Sturgill
Occupation: Director/Producer of Decatur Celebration
City of residence: Decatur
You've been Decatur Celebration Producer for seven years now. How has the event evolved and changed over that time?
When I became the producer of the festival, I came in on an agenda of change. It seemed like for many years, we kept saying, ‘This might be the last year of the festival,’ and just kind of had a negative image. I wanted to turn that around, and I also wanted to reshape our focus on diversity of entertainment. I also wanted to add a lot of new features to the event and shake things up a little bit. At this point, I keep saying to myself that I want to have an easy year and not change anything, but that never seems to happen.
Since I started, we had the 21 Film Festival for several years and an art area surrounding that. The wine garden and craft beer became part of the festival. We always had a VIP tent, but that was previously only available to sponsors, and now we’ve opened that up to the public.
The festival constantly evolves because we’re constantly looking to see what the audience wants. When I first came in, the audience seems to be asking for upscale areas to the festival, so that’s why the wine garden was born.
I had a goal to start recycling, which we did in 2011. If I want to say anything was my passion project, that was probably it from the beginning. The staff of Macon County Environmental Management has made recycling super easy. They hadn’t been asked to do it before. When we did ask, they were totally onboard.
What new foods or features should people make sure not to miss this year?
Land of Lincoln Credit Union is sponsoring a virtual reality experience this year with Heroic Age Studios. You'll put the headphones on and feel like you’re in the the middle of whatever the experience is. I’m not going to ruin that for anybody, but let’s say maybe you’re walking a tightrope between two buildings; your body reacts to that in a stressful manner because it feels so real to you.
Jim Beam has come on as a sponsor, so we’ll be doing some cocktails in two locations, one by the Show Stage and one outside of the post office area.
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This year we’re doing something new called Celeroochelooza; it’s going to be a really cool area for teenagers. In addition, Kids Block has expanded and the entrance is moving to South Franklin, across from the Decatur Public Library. They have expanded the games and everything in there, including a mermaid in a tank and building project with materials provided by Lowe’s.
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church is providing a family care center for the second year. They will have an air-conditioned, private area where mothers can breastfeed. There’s also diaper changing and a resting area if you’re getting hot; it’s all kind of around the aspect of helping families while they’re down there.
This is the first year that the Celebration will have a fence and charge admission. Are there any misconceptions about these changes, or the festival overall, that you'd like to clear up?
There are definitely questions that people had about the fence. One is: Where are the admission gates? You can find a map on the Decatur Celebration website; they are pretty much all over the perimeter. Anywhere that you normally would have walked in, most likely there will be an admission gate there now.
Some people asked if they had to have an admission wristband to get in and also one for food and beverage. No, you just have to have the admission wristband to get in. There’s only one wristband, and that’s what it is.
Other people had asked if they needed a wristband to watch the parade. No, you don’t necessarily have to, although you certainly can. Half of the parade route, all along Main Street from North Street to the Ameren parking lot on the south side, is outside the fence. You can stand anywhere along there and watch the parade without needing to have a wristband.
I want to make sure that people know wristbands cost $5 in advance, and those advance sales end at close of business on Tuesday. After that, it’s $8 at the gate. Wristbands are available at the following Decatur businesses:
- Brinkoetter & Associates
- Coffee Connection
- County Market on Pershing
- Cricket Wireless
- Decatur Earthmover Credit Union
- Hickory Point Bank
- Land of Lincoln Credit Union
- Soy Capital Bank & Trust
- Town & Country Bank
Of all the headliners you've booked as Producer, which one made you the most personally excited?
I loved having En Vogue here. I grew up participating in choir and I loved to sing; I was always listening to their tapes over and over again, just trying to sing everything exactly like they did.
What is your favorite Celebration food?
It changes every year because I like to try the new things. This year I’m really excited about lobster mac and cheese. I also love the crab cakes and the fish tacos — I guess I have a seafood theme.