From the Mayor 06/22/16

Reprinted with Permission of the Independence Daily Reporter

Like a shooting star, Astra is headed toward Independence, arriving next week.

The Astra Arts Festival will run day and night from June 30 through July 4 and as your mayor, I am ordering you to make plans today to attend no less than three events or activities.

I won’t accept any excuses like, “I have no artistic abilities whatever.” Or, “I’m tone deaf.” Nobody has less artistic and musical ability than I. When I join in the singing on Sunday morning at First Presbyterian, I notice that everyone sitting near me quickly turns down their hearing aids. And until my wife set me straight, I always thought that the term “classical” music was referring to Johnny Cash, Charlie Pride, and maybe some early Garth Brooks. (And maybe even some old Toby Keith stuff; any song titled “Beer for My Horses” has got to be considered classical music, right?)

What’s so amazing about Astra is the incredible variety of happenings. Art. Theatre. Literature. Music. Activities for kids. Activities for adults. Renowned organist Andrew Schaeffer will be giving a Reuter Pipe Organ Concert at First Presbyterian Church and I PROMISE that I won’t sing.

The schedule is absolutely packed with great things to see and do—more than FIFTY! I wish I were retired so I could attend everything.

Jana Jae will be back in town offering fiddling workshops. There will be two-hour painting classes—with refreshments, including wine if you bring it, at Jim Hayward’s downtown gallery. Also writing and publishing work sessions. (Time to pick up that Great American Novel project you’ve been contemplating.) The Verdigris Valley Art Show is already open at the Independence Historical Museum. Professional muralist Heidi Sallows will be painting a patriotic image on the wall next to the Community National Bank drive-thru. There’s a pottery class, a “Haunted Indy tour” and an opportunity to learn how to make hard cider and cheese. Don’t miss Luke Yankee’s “Diva Dish” show, the gospel group Ernie Haase and the Signature Sound, and the Saturday night dance with Big Shed and Mystic Funk Machine.

An “a cappella” singing group is coming to town, just like in the movie “Pitch Perfect.” The group got started at St. John’s University in Central Minnesota and includes lead vocalist Shaun Johnson, tenor and vocal percussionist, Greg Bannwarth, and bass, Jared Dove. How would you like to be known for your skills as a vocal percussionist? The group has reached national prominence with appearances on NBC’s Today Show and in Newsweek magazine. They’ve also shared the stage with many well-known performers including Jay Leno, Jeff Foxworthy and Lonestar. So, incredibly, we have a famous a cappella group performing in Indy next week. The group’s name is Tonic Sol-fa. I have no idea what that means, and I really hate the name, but the group is amazing.

Do not miss the Astra Arts Festival. We have more events going on next week than most cities have in a decade. Get your tickets and join us; I know that it will be great fun. The ticket office is located in the former J.C. Penney Building at 212 North Penn. Get online now and check out all the happenings at

Mayor Gary Hogsett