Bandfest continues to grow, evolve

Finding somewhere to go or something to do isn’t always easy for teens.

“I know me and my friends, we’re always trying to find something new to do,” said Matt Butta, a senior at Monacan High School and a member of the county’s Youth Services Citizens Board.

Teens will have something different to do on Saturday, Feb. 27, when Bandfest returns to Southside Church of the Nazarene. The deadline for local teen artists to register for the event is Friday, Jan. 22, at 5 p.m.

Beth Clements, a youth development specialist with Chesterfield County, said Bandfest is planned by local teens, usually those who serve on the Youth Services Citizens Board.

The event is promoted by the county’s Department of Youth Planning and Development and sponsored by SAFE and Southside Church of the Nazarene.

“We wanted to have a safe, drug-free, alcohol-free activity for teens, and we wanted to have a place for them to come hang out,” Clements said. “We have Chesterfield County teens involved in the whole process. … So, I think it gets the whole community involved.”

Organizers have taken Bandfest 2010 further, adding a video competition and, for the first time this year, a T-shirt design contest to the performances by teen bands, she said. The goal is to include teens with a variety of talents, she said.

“It’s still ‘Bandfest,’ but we’re trying to take it and expand on the message,” she said.

The theme of this year’s event is “Dare 2B U,” she said, and the youth organizers focused on that concept because the goal is to have teens be “strong within themselves” when facing different decisions relating to substance abuse.

The first Bandfest, held in 2003, attracted about 600 people, Clements said. In 2004, “it just grew,” and about 1,000 people attended, she said. After taking a year off in 2008, when the church was being remodeled, the event returned last year and had about 500 attendees, she said.

“We hear so often that [teens] don’t have a lot of places to go,” she said, and things like movies and gas have become expensive.

Bandfest is not only something new for teens to do each year, Butta said, but it helps raise awareness of the group’s message, which he summed up as, “Stay in school and don’t do drugs.”

“It’s something new, and everyone is going around and seeing their friends perform, and it’s a cool event,” he said. “It’s going to be a really good event.

“If you liked it in the past, definitely come out [this year].”

Clements said there are strict guidelines for the bands and entrants participating in the T-shirt design and video competitions. Those guidelines are available, along with a registration packet, at chesterfieldsafe.org, she said.

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