Computer crash doesn’t stop festival success

Even a computer crash two days before the start of the West Coast Latvian Song Festival could not stop the regional American event from being a success, says the chairman of the festival’s organizing committee.

The festival, which ran from Aug. 28 to Sept. 1 in Ventura, Calif., drew its expected 1,000 to 1,200 participants and audience members, Chairman Pauls Berkolds told Latvians Online. And when the books are closed on the festival, he said he believes the event will have money left over.

“Basically, everything went well,” Berkolds said. He has heard good reviews about the festival program, including the play “Hotel Paradiso,” the musical “Vēstule no Losas” and the choir and dance concerts.

Room quotas demanded by the two festival hotels also were reached, meaning organizers saved on the expense of renting space for events at those venues.

A few anxious moments were experienced when the treasurer’s computer crashed, but few troubles resulted because many tickets had already been mailed to attendees and because organizers had back-up information in paper form.

For Berkolds and others involved in the festival, the event was doubly challenging because they not only organized events, but also participated in them. Berkolds, for example, had the lead role in the one-act comedy play, “Hotel Paradiso,” written by his wife, Andra St. Ivanyi Berkolda. Although he is a professional singer and often appears before audiences, he said this was the first time he has had such a large speaking role.

The play was recorded on videotape, as was the musical and the concerts, Berkolds said. However, there is no word yet if edited versions will be made available for sale to the public.

Besides the play, Berkolds said some of his favorite memories of the festival include a children’s festival that included a performance by Dzegūzīte, a well-known children’s singing group from Latvia. The event took place on the 11th floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in a brightly decorated room with round windows that provided a view to the Pacific Ocean.

Also memorable was the joint choir concert, with 200 singers assembled on the stage of Ventura High School, Berkolds said. For organizers like Berkolds, the concert was a fitting culmination to the festival because they could experience “stress release,” knowing that all that was left was the final ball.

Berkolds said he expects the organizing committee has about another six months of work before it can retire. Bills have to be paid, including a startup loan from the West Coast Song Festival Council (Rietumkrasta Dziesmu svētku padome). Some of the proceeds of the Ventura festival will support a youth fund overseen by the council. From each ticket sold to festival events, 25 cents will go to the fund, which supports West Coast Latvian youth in activities such as attending the Kursa or Gaŗezers summer high schools in the United States.

The festival garnered a certain amount of media attention, including a couple of stories in the Ventura County Star, an half-hour program on Los Angeles public radio station KPFK and coverage on Latvian State Television’s “100 gramu kultūras”, as well as from Latvian diaspora media.

What is not known is whether another West Coast festival is in the cards. No announcement was made during the Ventura festival, Berkolds said. The year 2012 would be a fitting time for an anniversary festival, marking 50 years since the first festival in 1962. However, that’s the same year the next U.S. Latvian Song and Dance Festival is being planned for Milwaukee.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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