I write about country music. Mostly.

Setting the Stage at the Mississippi Valley Fair

The giant stage went up today at the Mississippi Valley Fair (MVF) which runs this week in Davenport, IA. Thanks, Bob Fox, for allowing me a  ringside seat to watch the process. And what a process it is!

There were 16 local union workers assisting three technicians from TMS, an Omaha-based

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Crew members secure steel structures that hold lighting and sound equipment.

company that brings the staging structures and lighting gear. I watched as six steel pillars, a canvas roof and two speaker towers were put in place, along with four spotlights that get hauled up like a coffin to the top of stands.

A separate company called Audio Visions, also of Omaha, installs the sound equipment, including hundreds of feet of cable. The cable was snaked underneath the sand pit where fans stand via a PVC tunnel to the soundboard over by the box seats.

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Joe Goodall is IATSE Stagehand Local #85 business manager and he also heads the local stage crew for the fair.

Joe Goodall of IATSE Stagehand Local #85 organized the local union crew. About three sentences into meeting Joe I realized he’s the son of Tom Goodall, the technical stage director at our local high school. I met Tom when our daughter was in school and participated in a play. Small world.

Joe is a friendly guy who taught junior high before his love of crew life took over. In addition to working at the fair, he oversees stagehands at the iWireless Center, the Adler Theatre and several other performances around the area. I now realize the people wearing black tee shirts and working at concerts are not all “roadies.” Many, like Joe, live here in the Quad Cities. Joe’s been running the crew at the fair for the past eight years and has worked in the union since 2001, a couple years out of high school. But he’s been doing stage work since he was just a youngster. “Dad would bring me over (to the high school) after school to help build sets and set up lighting,” Joe said.

The staging, lighting and basic sound equipment erected today will be the

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Stagehand Laura Chappell has been working for IATSE for several years but this is her first stint at the fair. She was the only female hand working today.

production skeleton for each of the five shows this week. Artists for this year’s fair include: Chris Janson, Gary Allan, 3DoorsDown, Rascal Flatts, Alabama and Montgomery Gentry. The acts, Joe explains, usually bring in extra lighting and sound equipment, plus several technicians (those are the roadies) who run their sound equipment and special effects. But they also rely on local stagehands to help unload, set up equipment and assist with production during the show. Chris Janson, who headlines Tuesday, requested just eight locals while Rascal Flatts put in an order for 35 stagehands. Sounds like we can expect plenty of bells and whistles Friday night.

As each star’s trucks arrive, the local crew will spend 4-5 hours helping to set up prior to the band’s afternoon sound check. Joe recalls a few years ago when it stormed throughout the day of Toby Keith’s show. Mud was everywhere. “We had to borrow hay wagons and tractors to bring all the gear from the semis,” Joe says.

On the golf cart ride over to the stage area Bob Fox, the fair’s manager, mentioned we may see a few storms this week. My iPhone weather app says its possible Tuesday and Wednesday and there’s some heat in the forecast, too. We agree it is all to be expected in August in Iowa. (My husband who was at the fairgrounds this evening said they got clobbered with rain tonight,)

The  week’s grandstand acts are sure to be entertaining and exciting. We are lucky to get so many big names for our local county fair. And after today I’ll appreciate the concerts even more. The folks doing the heavy lifting backstage could not have been nicer. And there’s a lot to putting on the show!  #MississippiValleyFair #Iowa #Stagehands #ShowMustGoOn

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John Finical of TMS (Theatrical Media Service) walks across the “topper” roof that will keep the artists and their bands, plus all the equipment safe from rain. TMS contracts to build the staging structures and lighting for the grandstand acts.

 

Local crew members from IATSE Stagehand Local #85 carry four spotlights, plus the yokes they are mounted to, to the very top of the grandstand.

Getting ready to lift the stage topper and lights.

If you like this post, please share it and check out my other stories. And consider following Karen Loves Country here or on Facebook or at at Twitter @fanmama1.  Thanks for reading!

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