By Mark Evans
Annette Rolfe found that fondness for Ste. Genevieve overcame any wariness musicians and other special guests may have had about taking part in the 35th annual Ste. Genevieve Christmas Festival this year.
Despite COVID-19’s looming presence, Rolfe found entertainers, lecturers and craftsmen more than willing to take part in the Dec. 5-6 event that annually kicks off the Christmas season here.
“We have all the musicians coming in,” Rolfe said. “I feel very fortunate for that.”
Rolfe said the performers have fallen in love with the town and have come to consider Ste. Genevieve spectators their friends. They would hate to think about missing a year.
“That’s why most of them come, they think it’s so wonderful,” Rolfe said.
She recalled how Dr. Isaac Lausell of the Southern Illinois University music department, had brought students to perform in past years. When one became ill, Lausell filled in himself, and became hooked.
“He came up and loved it so much he not only comes back every year, but brings his Latino jazz band, which has three award-winning professors from SIU-Carbondale,” she said. “They love the people and this town.”
Rolfe said that violinist Megan Heithaus is another performer who has developed strong loyalty to the city and its winter festival.
“She’s been working with the program since she was about 19 years old, a sophomore in college,” Rolfe said. Heithaus has continued coming as she finished her undergraduate and graduate degrees and beyond. She now performs with the Paducah, Kentucky Symphony Orchestra and is also director of the Sikeston Symphony Orchestra.
Of course local favorites have been featured for years, like Bill and Patti Naeger and her Les Petits Chanteurs, Rosie and Sam Hughey and the Lynn, Jack and Jen trio of Lynn Rose Terry, Jack Koetting and Jen Wood.
PRECAUTIONS BEING TAKEN
Making sure performers and visitors alike are safe from the caronavirus and any other germs is a priority. Rolf feels confident it can be done.
She said she attended a festival in Branson recently and didn’t feel scared.
“I felt safe there,” she said. “They had a mask requirement. I’m being stricter than Branson.”
In Branson, concert attendees, sitting spaced out with empty rows in between, could remove masks once inside.
“I’m not doing that,” Rolfe said. “I’m requiring the mask inside, at the request of the musicians and the speakers.”
She believes visitors will and should feel safe attending the festival.
“I felt completely safe in Branson, she said, “and I felt better. It felt like an almost normal life again.”
She has worked with the county health department and other health officials, who agreed that the festival could be held safely.