Not many cities can claim that a particular type of music originated within its limits.
But Marshall can do just that. According to historians, the Boogie Woogie style was started around the 1870s in a logging-camp house somewhere around Caddo Lake and Marshall. Loggers, hoping to be entertained after a long day of work, would play pianos in the shacks at night. The constant sound of steam engines roaring past likely influenced the style of playing, which ultimately led to what was once called Fast Texas, but is now known universally as Boogie Woogie.
It's a wonderful heritage that should be preserved and celebrated. But the City Commission's vote this week to allocate an additional $5,000 from Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) funds to Boogie Woogie won't put more heads in beds as it stands now.
That's because there isn't a plan for how to spend the extra money.
At the commission's Jan. 11 meeting, the group had voted to cut Boogie Woogie's funding from $10,000 to $5,000, upon a recommendation by the Convention & Visitors Bureau. This week, CVB member George Carter spoke out against the increase, stating that his group is well-equipped to decide which organizations receive HOT funds.
We agree that the CVB knows what it's doing in terms of trying to attract more visitors to the city. Also, the extra $5,000 will have to come from somewhere else, and that's a substantial allocation.
Carter had assured the commission that the CVB has detailed accounts of each group that receives HOT funds – and how many heads in beds are generated from each. The CVB does its homework and they know what event or group brings out of town visitors to Marshall. Josey Ranch and Ed and Amanda Smith's HealthFest clearly have the largest tourist impact on the city. Boogie Woogie puts very few heads in beds for their events. City Commissioner Doug Lewis, who serves as ex-officio on the CVB board, spoke in favor of listening to the wisdom of the CVB Board.
The CVB presently has $126,400 to award to eight groups. Giving Boogie Woogie an additional $5,000 could impede the group's ability to accomplish other goals, such as to advertise.
We agree with Commissioner District 2 Gail Beil that there is tremendous potential for Boogie Woogie to do great things for Marshall. But no one has yet begun plans for a festival or another type of event to recognize it.
For that reason, it doesn't seem to be the best use of HOT funds at the moment. If there were plans for an annual event, for example, the funds would be very worthy. But so far, it isn't in the works.
We agree that Boogie Woogie is part of this area's rich cultural heritage and should be treasured. But having a concrete project to celebrate it, with goals in place, should be the first step.