After two consecutive years of cancellations due to COVID, the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival will return to Sedalia this summer, according to a presentation given to Sedalia City Council Monday night.

Community Development Director John Simmons and Sedalia artist Doug Freed, both of whom serve on the foundation board (Freed is president, Simmons is VP), appeared before the Council as one of several presentations from department heads over the last several months to help guide Council in their annual duty of prioritizing projects for the City's budget.

Council is scheduled to meet for a strategic planning session for several hours this Saturday at the Municipal Building, 2nd and Osage.

The session will begin at 8:30 a.m., and the public is invited to observe.

One of the main reasons for Simmons and Freed's appearance Monday night was to officially request $10,000 in financial support from the City, and to provide an annual report.

Other funding sources for the Scott Joplin Foundation include the Missouri Arts Council ($8,877), a Missouri Tourism grant ($26,050), and the Sedalia Convention & Visitors Bureau ($4,500). The Foundation also receives support from Sedalia Rotary, it was noted.

“The Foundation didn't suffer any financial losses due to COVID,” Simmons stressed. The 2020 and 2021 editions were canceled early in the year, well in advance of the 3-day festival, normally held at the end of May and the first of June. February 28 is the “do-or-die” date when the Foundation makes its decision on whether to hold the music festival that year before any performer contracts are signed.

The 2022 edition of the music festival is estimated to be the 43rd since its inception.

“We hope everything's good to go this year, the talent is booked and ready to go ... and I appreciate your support,” Freed told the Council.

Freed was particularly happy with the Furnell Pavilion, currently under construction, but expected to be completed by the start of this year's festival. “It's going to make a giant impact in what we can do with the festival,” he said. “That means a lot to us.”

The music festival's annual economic impact on Sedalia is estimated to be about $110,335, according to Simmons. Tickets sales for the 2019 festival was around $33,000.

According to scottjoplin.org, in 2020, the Joplin Foundation initiated
Syncopated Saturday Nights, a series of internet-based concerts to support Ragtime artists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic resulted in cancellation of most live performances, including the 2020 and 2021Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festivals.

The first “SSN” took place on Sept. 26, 2020 via YouTube and Facebook. The Foundation provided each performer with a stipend, and encouraged viewers to provide additional “tips” by donating through the Foundation’s website or by mail.

Performers received 100 percent of the donations. All SSN concerts
remain available for viewing on the Foundation’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/scottjoplin65301

Simmons noted that the Foundation has plans to continue SSN, which raised $29,715 in donations over the last two years. Donations came from 37 US states, in addition to Canada, England, Spain and Japan.

SSN brought in new listeners to ragtime music, Freed noted, which is important to keep attracting a new audience for a style of music that was popularized over 140 years ago.

First Ward Councilman Tom Oldham asked the presenters how they plan to attract a new audience to the festival. And the answer they gave was they are using social media to reach a new market of ragtime admirers.

At a normal, in-person ragtime festival, between 150 and 300 people attend the paid, evening concerts at the Liberty Center in downtown Sedalia. And the daytime free venues can attract up to 450 people, Simmons said.

As for volunteers, Simmons noted that the Foundation “could use a few more hands on deck this year.”

For more information about the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, email sjfsedalia@gmail.com  or call (660) 826-2271.