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I Publius: Get ready for a busker summer

This program will return Great Barrington to its status as the “greatest small town in America.”

The town of Great Barrington will be even more fun as we move into a busker summer, thanks to local resident Gene Carr. The streets will be alive with musicians recruited by Carr’s new program, Berkshire Busk! We’ll be seeing and hearing all kinds of music, ranging from bluegrass to classical. Each busker will earn $75, plus tips. The word is already out. Musicians will be assigned designated performance spaces and a lot of people will be gravitating toward the town. Obviously, some spaces will be more desirable than others and that could spell minor league trouble.

Applications are being received from all over the country. There are some potential problems — those who did not make the cut are already making some noise. Some are saying they should be paid more, but there are buskers on street corners all over the country who get nothing but tips.

We’ve seen buskers in Asheville, North Carolina, and even Bainbridge Island in Washington. It was a great stuff. I once invited a former bandmate to a reunion. He said that his girlfriend was a busker playing in the New York City subways and, like a wise guy, I asked him, “Uptown or downtown?” I don’t think he was amused.

Hey, art songs are not for everyone, but that’s what’s so great about this idea. There’ll be something for everyone, much like a food fair where you can walk around and sample everything. Some will be great. Others, not so much.

In any case, this program will return Great Barrington to its status as the “greatest small town in America.” I love this idea in our post-pandemic world. Since many of us still would rather be outside than inside, this allows us to do what is right for our personal health. With all the cannabis dispensaries in town, there may be a bit of a haze. I have to tell the town meeting voters that they blew it with a negative vote on reining in the pot dealers.

We are not out of the woods yet on COVID, so we’ll have to be careful since there are some clueless people who refuse to get vaccinated. Should we experience an uptick in cases, we may have to reconsider some of this. If you think I’m being overly cautious, consider the fact that several New York Yankees contracted the virus despite having been fully vaccinated.

The town meeting voted incorrectly not to buy the parking lot next to the railroad tracks. Like it or not, all kinds of people will be coming to Great Barrington in addition to the hordes who are already hanging around. There has never been enough parking in town and this was an opportunity to increase the number of available spaces. I guess one more example of the townspeople being frugal at the wrong time, like when they turned down the building of a new high school, one of the more shameful episodes in our history.

As in all cases of innovation, Carr has worked hard to make this work. He understands the power of the press and has made the rounds and garnered support from several businesses. That is appropriate, because the more people there are in town, the more money the local merchants will get. That includes SoCo, the ice cream place that will be the major beneficiary. It always takes one person to make something big happen. In this case it is Gene Carr. He has worked so hard that I suggested he might want to write a book about how to do this.

So let’s all go out and celebrate the buskers and thank Gene for having made this happen. I can’t wait.


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