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Peterborough’s The Thing in the Spring poised to expand

  • Eric Gagne, one of the creators of the Thing in the Spring, a weekend-long music festival, has plans to expand the venture this year, adding an extra day, more bands, and more well-known music. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Eric Gagne, one of the creators of the Thing in the Spring, a weekend-long music festival, has plans to expand the venture this year, adding an extra day, more bands, and more well-known music.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • Eric Gagne, one of the creators of the Thing in the Spring, a weekend-long music festival in June, has plans to expand the venture this year, adding an extra day, more bands, and more well-known music. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Eric Gagne, one of the creators of the Thing in the Spring, a weekend-long music festival in June, has plans to expand the venture this year, adding an extra day, more bands, and more well-known music.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • New York City free jazz multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter plays a flute solo while appearing with his band, Harmonize Most High during the Thing in the Spring in 2008.

    New York City free jazz multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter plays a flute solo while appearing with his band, Harmonize Most High during the Thing in the Spring in 2008.

  • Philidelphia musician Meg Baird plays guitar during the 2010 Thing in the Spring.

    Philidelphia musician Meg Baird plays guitar during the 2010 Thing in the Spring.

  •  Paul Flaherty plays the tenor sax with Randall Colbourne on drums during the Thing in the Spring in 2008. Flaherty will be making a return performance during this year's Thing.

    Paul Flaherty plays the tenor sax with Randall Colbourne on drums during the Thing in the Spring in 2008. Flaherty will be making a return performance during this year's Thing.

  • Eric Gagne, one of the creators of the Thing in the Spring, a weekend-long music festival, has plans to expand the venture this year, adding an extra day, more bands, and more well-known music. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Eric Gagne, one of the creators of the Thing in the Spring, a weekend-long music festival, has plans to expand the venture this year, adding an extra day, more bands, and more well-known music.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

  • Eric Gagne, one of the creators of the Thing in the Spring, a weekend-long music festival, has plans to expand the venture this year, adding an extra day, more bands, and more well-known music. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Eric Gagne, one of the creators of the Thing in the Spring, a weekend-long music festival in June, has plans to expand the venture this year, adding an extra day, more bands, and more well-known music. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • New York City free jazz multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter plays a flute solo while appearing with his band, Harmonize Most High during the Thing in the Spring in 2008.
  • Philidelphia musician Meg Baird plays guitar during the 2010 Thing in the Spring.
  •  Paul Flaherty plays the tenor sax with Randall Colbourne on drums during the Thing in the Spring in 2008. Flaherty will be making a return performance during this year's Thing.
  • Eric Gagne, one of the creators of the Thing in the Spring, a weekend-long music festival, has plans to expand the venture this year, adding an extra day, more bands, and more well-known music. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

For the past six years, the Thing in the Spring has been bringing a fresh set of bands to the area for three straight days devoted to a variety of music and arts events. The weekend’s festivities have been growing slowly since it was first conceived, but now is the time to take it up a notch, according to creator Eric Gagne.

The event is longer this year by one whole day. And with a longer time frame come more bands playing, about 10 more than last year, said Gagne in an interview in the record section of Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough, where he has worked for the last ten years.

And it’s not just the quantity that’s increasing, it’s the quality, he said. The Thing in the Spring is an ambitious venture this year, as Gagne hopes to double the budget from 2012, in an effort to attract better-known bands. And with better-known bands, come larger crowds and more notability, Gagne said.

It’s a balance, he noted to attract big names while still maintaining the Thing in the Spring’s primary focus, which is providing affordable art to those who attend.

“This is an event that shows people that you don’t necessarily have to go to a big city to do exciting or substantial things. And if you’re able to keep making exciting things happen in town, it becomes a much richer community, a culturally rich community that people want to be in,” he said.

In addition to attracting more notable bands, Gagne said, another thing that makes the Thing in the Spring shows unique is that each show contains a line up of three bands. The combinations are carefully paired to create a concert that complements itself, and couldn’t be seen anywhere else.

“The idea is, you’ve never seen these three groups together before. It makes it easier to justify traveling to Peterborough. It makes the town a destination,” he said. “And the more money we have, the more unique and exciting lineups we can create.”

And with bands this year being booked from all over the U.S., including Boston, Chicago, New York, Virginia, all around New England and even Germany, those unique combinations of bands shouldn’t be difficult to create.

Gagne said some of the talent for the event has already been booked, while others are still being negotiated. Band lineups will be announced in February, he said.

The idea of creating those interesting combinations in a long music festival came to mind six years ago, when Gagne was talking with his friend and business partner, Ryan Wilson, about bringing back a musical gathering with a Woodstock feel that would actually be affordable. It started out with an idea for an affordable arts fair, with Gagne wanting to provide a concert at the same time. But if they were going to do something, they decided, they might as well go all out, and by the time the idea came to fruition it had evolved into a three-day celebration.

This will likely be the last year the Thing in the Spring is operated under a for-profit status, said Gagne. The Glass Museum, the organization that runs the Thing in the Spring, is in the final stages of becoming a nonprofit, and Gagne expects by next year he will be able to support the event with grant funding, in addition to sponsorships. But for now, he must raise the money on his own.

It’s more money than Gagne has had to raise for the event than ever before, an amount he declined to disclose. And in order to meet his goal, the business model for the music festival has had to change, he said. The Thing in the Spring has always had sponsorship from local businesses, and that’s a feature that Gagne has expanded significantly this year.

In addition to the usual sponsorship, which gives businesses advertising on the Thing in the Spring’s website, Gagne is also selling advertising space in the festival’s programs. More significantly, though, he said, he’s partnered with a few businesses to create promotions for the festival.

For example, Waterhouse, a Peterborough restaurant, will be giving the Thing in the Spring 10 percent of its profits from every Tuesday in February. And Jack Daniel’s Motor Inn in Peterborough, a regular sponsor of the Thing in the Spring, will be giving free passes to a Thing in the Spring show for every guest staying more than one night during the festival.

It’s these kinds of promotions, along with some advertising and selling weekend passes well in advance of the event, that Gagne hopes will help boost attendance and ticket sales. While people have come from all over the country to attend the festival in the past, Gagne is hoping to increase local attendance as well. This year, Gagne will be writing reviews of the albums of this year’s artists, and having their music available in the music section of Toadstool, so even residents unfamiliar with them can become fans before getting the chance to see them play live.

“The way our society works, people really have to compartmentalize their fun. If you travel to see a band in Boston, you’re spending all this additional time traveling to watch two hours of music,” he said. “What I want the Thing in the Spring to be is: Here are the dates. Block that whole time, come here, and all you’re doing is hearing music and seeing art, and talking with people and exchanging ideas. There’s four days to come and relax, where you can just let go and really enjoy your life for a minute.”

The 6th Annual Thing in the Spring will be held June 6 through June 9 in downtown Peterborough. Weekend passes, which includes admission to five concerts throughout the festival, will be available in advance beginning Feb. 1, for $50. Applications for *broke: The Affordable Arts Fair will also be available beginning Feb. 1. For more information, visit www.thethinginthespring.com.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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