May 1, 2010, … that was the first SwanFest: A Day of Music. It was a Saturday.
Gene Cole brought over his flatbed trailer for the stage and we set it up where the Pug Pavilion is now located. Four bands played throughout the day.
SwanFest came about when Pat Thomas, then the town manager, asked me to put an event together on the recently purchased grassy area downtown. If the town could demonstrate there was an interest for events to be held in this area, grant money to build a stage might be obtained. Pat knew I was a musician so he asked me to pull something together.
Between June and September of 2010 we used the same flatbed trailer but went to Sunday evenings once a month featuring only one band.
Sunday seemed like the better choice for a relaxing evening of music.
Then in 2011, the grant came through and in short order The Harry C. Pugliese Jr. Pavilion Stage at Olde Towne Square became a reality. Brad Fischer was the designer/architect. Our new covered stage was dedicated and named to honor our beloved former Police Chief, Harry Pugliese – someone who shared himself with the community and wholly supported the concept of entertainment in the town center.
We started the music in July, the month the stage was completed, and ran Sunday shows through the end of September. This was also the year I approached the Seaside Arts Council about adopting SwanFest due to its rapid growth and popularity and the fact that it seemed like a natural fit to have the music under the same umbrella of the local arts council. I ended up also becoming president of the SAC then as well.
From 2012 through 2019 … Every Sunday from Memorial Day to Labor Day, we had music at the Pug. Crowds gathering to socialize and listen to a variety of talented musicians from country, to folk, to rock, to reggae, to rockabilly, to beach, and beyond. We had SwanFest!
I couldn’t be more proud of the growth and popularity of SwanFest over the years. I am honored and blessed to have had the confidence and support of the town leadership and the Seaside Arts Council in making SwanFest a summertime mainstay in our community; and I recognize that without them, none of this would be possible. And so it is a bittersweet time for me as I turn over the reins to the others on the Seaside Arts Council.
However, SwanFest is in the good hands of many who have been by my side for several years now allowing me to commandeer the event but always doing what is asked of them every Sunday … Jennifer Pearce, Bev Riznik, Martha Oyan and Rich Wells particularly come to mind. Their input and new ideas will certainly propel SwanFest forward as it continues to grow in popularity and support.
To the sponsors … .all of you have made SwanFest what it is today and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Some of you have been with us from the very beginning ten years ago. I won’t try to mention specific sponsors because I’m sure I’d unintentionally leave someone out. As I have said many times, SwanFest is not possible without you.
To the town of Swansboro … thank you to all the commissioners and town managers and town employees, as well as the public safety personnel who have supported our efforts all these years. Brittany Shipp in particular was very helpful and made my job easier and less stressful.
To my husband Greg Cooper … thank for your patience with all the weekend trips we had to cut short to get back to SwanFest on Sunday evenings; and for letting me fret about the weather even when you kept telling me there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.
To Ben Licko … thank for you always smiling and for allowing us to give you a standing ovation every Memorial Day.
To my mama … thank you for always remembering that Sunday night is music night; dementia has not taken that away from you. And thank you for all the years you danced; I know you still would if you could.
To Johnny Weeks … thank you for your moral support every week just by being there. You are my biggest fan and that has not gone unnoticed.
To Art Schools … thank you for appreciating SwanFest and allowing me to help you create EmeraldFest because of it; it is my pleasure to call you a dear friend who I know would always have my back.
To all the musicians … you give of your time and talents and I admire the respect you have given SwanFest through the years.
To Wes and Joy Mason … when I found you to handle sound, there was never a need to look any further.
And there are so many others …
Many folks have approached me through the years relating memorable stories of what SwanFest has meant to them.
A few folks have told me they chose to live in Swansboro because of the Sunday concerts.
One woman told me her husband passed away recently and Sunday evenings are her way to unwind and bring calmness to that harsh reality.
An attorney from Raleigh called me to become a $500 sponsor because of the peace he feels each Sunday when he drives over on his boat from Cedar Point to hear the music.
It is a great way to start your week! I will remember making good friends because of these Sundays.
And these Sundays will not go away! Next summer, I’ll just be one of the crowd; relaxing and enjoying the music, unwinding, letting go of issues and worries and the week ahead for 90 minutes on Sunday evenings. I look forward to that.
And to the Seaside Arts Council and all its hardworking volunteers, remember capital S and capital F (SwanFest) and please maintain a local musician presence for at least half of the summer shows.
Thank you all again for the kindness and support you’ve given through the years to make SwanFest what it has become today. I wish you all SUNSHINY SUNDAYS!
Angie Cooper of Swansboro is past president of the Seaside Arts Council.