Fanfare celebrations return to Hammond for 32nd year

Fanfare includes events ranging from lectures to music performances throughout October.
File Photo/The Lion’s Roar

The annual celebration of Fanfare arrives with October for its 32nd season.

Executive Director of the Columbia Theatre Roy Blackwood, Harriet Vogt, Karen White and Jerry Salomone started the month-long celebration in response to Larry Crain canceling the university football program in 1985. Fanfare was partly intended as homecoming’s replacement for the football game.

“In the early years, we had very, very little money, and as Fanfare grew and as our financial base grew, we were able to attract more money,” said Blackwood. “So in that process through the later part of the 1980s into the 1990s, we were able to put together a substantial budget, which we had to regenerate every year through patronage and sponsorships, and in doing that we were able to attract more and more famous talent to come to the program. For example, Maya Angelou, James Earl Jones, Frank McCourt, an astronaut, people like that who really had nationally prominent stature in the entertainment field, and so everybody certainly loved that.”




The primary change to Fanfare over the years has been funding. The economic situation of the 2000s reduced the budget.

“That funding base greatly diminished,” said Blackwood. “In the process, we have refocused Fanfare back to an on-campus event and really focused the direction toward the students so that the lectures and things like that we have now really are designed for student benefit rather than just entertainment because entertainment costs a lot more than education.”

According to Blackwood, one of the highlights of this year’s fanfare is “The Heart Behind the Music: Songwriter’s Showcase” on Oct. 18 at the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts.

Blackwood said, “We haven’t presented country music at the Columbia Theatre in the past, once or twice, but not really often, and these are some of the biggest names in country music right now that are coming to our stage including a brand new name, Lauren Duski who was a finalist on ‘The Voice’ last year; so I’m thinking that we’re going to attract a lot of people into the theater who haven’t been there, both from the campus and from the community.”

Students benefit from the Student Government Association’s support for Fanfare.

“The Student Government Association has been a long time supporter of Fanfare, and for that reason, I really want to encourage students to come,” said Blackwood. “It’s because of SGA supporting Fanfare that we can provide this for no cost for students. They get in free to these things with their student ID, so they really need to do that.”

A list of Fanfare events can be found on the Columbia’s website. Some of the events, like the “Then and Now” lecture series are free while others are at a low price.

“I encourage people to step out of their comfort zone and to sample some of the things that we’re offering that maybe are not familiar to them, and it’s a very easy way to be able to expand your horizons and to experience some things that maybe you wouldn’t otherwise experience,” said Blackwood. “I think that’s the real benefit of Fanfare.”