I don’t want this to be a quick, flippant blog post, I want to be clear and have people think about and reflect on some of these things.
This might have been the last First On First a.k.a. Alive at Five concert that you will see in Dickinson for many years, or maybe something else happened at this final event, you will have to continue reading.
The Odd Fellows Lodge in Dickinson is the group that sponsors, organizes, and pays for the First On First concerts. The Odd Fellows Lodge members are all unpaid volunteers. Some members handle the event plans and permitting with the city, sell event advertising to businesses, seek event sponsorship and donations, have signs, tickets and T-shirts made, order alcohol, close off the street and set up the event area, set up the stage, stock the alcohol bars, serve drinks, sell event wrist bands and drink tickets, sell event space to vendors, take down the stage, and clean up the event area. And continually do accounting and budgeting all week in order to be able to pay for everything each week, the biggest expense being the main performer every week.
Since I began going to the Alive at Five concerts in Dickinson in 2014, it has been harder and harder for Odd Fellows Lodge members and other people to volunteer and work at the events because of the way that Dickinson has changed. I would describe it as most people having financial difficulty, more difficulty in their lives, and being less able to volunteer their time. Also, businesses have become less able to afford event advertising, sponsorships, and donations.
For the past two years, Tracy Tooz the owner of Tooz Construction, and Mike Odegaard have been the primary event organizers in the leadership, management, booking of performers, event set up, and event take down each week. I have never seen Tracy Tooz or Mike Odegaard complain or gripe about anything. I have also never seen anyone ever thank Tracy Tooz or Mike Odegaard.
If you look at the First On First events as a big party, where everyone in North Dakota is invited, Tracy Tooz and Mike Odegaard set up this party, hire a band, make sure that there is enough alcohol, try to make sure everyone has a good time, then clean up after everybody has left, and then throw another party next week. Well, nobody has ever thanked them for it. They spend a lot of their time on the phone, the computer, driving their own trucks to go pick things up, using their own tools and equipment at the event, letting the performers use their personal RVs and vehicles while in town, and spending many hours each week setting up and taking down the stage. Tracy Tooz and Mike Odegaard have donated a great deal of time, money, and energy to the First On First concerts and there is no guarantee that they will want to continue, I am not sure that they will.
Other people who have consistently volunteered many hours at the events are Kathy Fisher owner of the Rock Bar, Kristi Schwartz owner of Allstate Insurance, Jeff Pokorney owner of Pokorney Chiropractic, all of the Outlaw Sippin’ band members Brady Paulson, Beni Paulson, Emil Anheluk, Qwain, Donna HR at Tooz Construction, Brock White owner of Brock White Entertainment, April, and many other people whose names I will add as I remember them.
As I wrote earlier, it is becoming more and more difficult for people to volunteer or work at the events because of the way that Dickinson is changing economically. All of the people that I have named so far up above, I don’t know if they will all be able to keep on volunteering like they have been. I have never seen anyone thank any of them.
All of the Odd Fellows Lodge members, all of the volunteers, all of the event sponsors and donors wanted for people to come out, have a good time, meet friends, socialize, and enjoy the concerts. Seeing and knowing that people enjoy the concerts was gratifying for everyone. But I wanted to point out now that many people just took the events for granted, that they would always happen every Thursday, that the city paid for it, or that it was a money making venture, where someone was making a profit.
The final First On First concert of this year, I knew, and probably thirty other people knew that this might be the last First On First concert for many years possibly. This may have been one of the reasons why Tracy Tooz, Mike Odegaard, and Jeff Pokorny decided to have the very last concert at the Dickinson State University football season opening game. This had never been done before.
While the DSU Blue Hawk supporters were having their tail gate party in the stadium parking lot, the Outlaw Sippin’ band began playing. Bradi, Beni, Emil and the band sounded as good or better than they ever had, but most of the tail gate partiers stayed over in the Blue Hawk supporter event area, like they were accustomed to doing for many years. There was also the assumption by many of the DSU Blue Hawk supporters that they had to be 21 years of age, and pay admission to get into the fenced in area in front of the stage. Attendance before the start of the football game at 6:00 p.m. was very low.
Immediately after the football game was over at about 8:30 p.m., the event area in front of the stage began to fill very quickly. Chancy Williams and the Younger Brothers Band began playing at about 8:45 p.m. From about 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m, there were approximately 400 to 500 people at the event. Without anyone knowing, the event almost ran out of beer by 10:30 p.m. and they had to go get more beer.
All of the event organizers were very happy that they had sold so many wrist bands and drink tickets in the final two hours, which would be enough to cover or more than cover all of the event expenses. All of the event organizers, volunteers, vendors, and workers realized that they could have or would have had much higher attendance starting at 3:00 p.m. if they would not have had a separation between the Blue Hawk supporter tail gate party and the event stage, everything should have been co-mingled, not separated.
The event organizers also realized from the wrist band sales and drink sales immediately following the end of the football game, that they might be able to continue to have this event for each of the remaining DSU home football games. This would allow the Odd Fellows Lodge to continue to bring music performers to Dickinson into the winter months, which is something that many people had wanted to happen for at least the past several years, but it was not known how this could be done.
What was seen by some people as possibly being the last First On First concert for quite a while, might have instead turned out to be the beginning of the music concert season in Dickinson extending into the winter. We will have to wait and see.
(Please leave the names of the event organizers, volunteers, band members, sponsors, and donors that I keep forgetting to mention in the comments section and I will include them.)