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Guitarfest coming to Summit County fairgrounds April 29

Lee East, left, and Lee "Dig" East, co-owners of Akron's Staff Music and co-sponsors of Guitarfest are pictured above. "This show is going to be different," said Dig. "Its already bigger than we expected. Its going to be huge." (Photo by Richard Weiner/Legal News). ᐧ

Legal News Reporter

Published: April 12, 2018

Summit County Probate Court Magistrate George Wertz says he has too many guitars. “I need to get rid of a few of them,” he said.

Wertz is a guitarist with the local rock band Roxxymoron. He is nearing retirement age. Like many people looking to buy or sell used guitars, Wertz will be heading to the first annual WONE Guitarfest Ohio, to be held on the Summit County fairgrounds in Tallmadge on Sunday, April 29, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

He will have a booth at the festival, looking to sell “a couple of Telecasters, some acoustic guitars, and three jazz archtops,” he said.

For the uninitiated, those are all types of guitars. He also has some amplifiers he may want to sell.

“The older I get, the harder it is to carry all of this heavy equipment,” he said.

Guitarfest organizer Jerry Mullins said that he wanted to “put together the guitar show that I wanted to go to. I don’t want it to be a typical guitar show.”

The show will feature 200 vendor tables with vendors from “mom and pop” size to large commercial music companies. Items for sale will include guitars in every price range, amplifiers, pedals and all the accoutrements of guitar playing. There will also be numerous attendant displays and activities.

Putting together Guitarfest was the natural outgrowth of a lifetime in music, said Mullins.

A guitarist himself who has played in several local bands, Mullins runs the Northeast Ohio Guitar Traders Facebook page. He is also the promotions director for local radio station WONE. He recently left the Bishop Hill Band.

“I’m a gear head,” said Mullins. “My passion is guitars, pedals, amplifiers. I buy, sell and trade, and I know a lot of people who come to shows because of that. I have been helping small businesses set up online sales, and one of the owners told me that I needed to put together a guitar show.”

So he did.

WONE is co-producing the festival, which also is in tune with the aims of WONE, said program director Tim Dougherty.

“Jerry came to us and said that we should do a guitar show. He would take care of the tables, and the station could get the publicity and maybe some nontraditional income. Plus the format is a natural one for us. We are a guitar-oriented radio station,” said Dougherty.

WONE plays primarily rock classics.

Although noting that there is no way to ensure the success of the first of any event, Dougherty said “we hope to do well. We’re not quite sure, but we have had a lot of success with a motorcycle swap meet.”

Like that event, Dougherty said that the station decided to take a chance with something new based on the demographics of its audience. He said that a guitarist’s version of a swap meet made sense to the station staff. The station will have a live presence at the festival with broadcasting, a tent, and Facebook Live cast. The station will freely promote it to its listening audience before that.

Mullins said that WONE “jumped into the festival almost as soon as I started planning it. I was looking for the station to be a sponsor, but almost immediately they told me that they wanted to be partner.”

The station looked around the county for the proper venue, finally settling on the fairgrounds, said Dougherty. It was a venue they were used to working with from the bike swap meets.

Mullins said the festival will be very family friendly, starting with the admission price of $5. There will be food trucks outside the display hall, as well as musical acts playing outside. Musical acts do not play inside guitar shows because buys and sellers are playing guitars throughout the hall for the whole length of the show.

Several pieces of equipment will be up for auction, with the proceeds going to charity, Mullins said. There will be playing, hands-on workshops, and some celebrities of the guitar equipment world. There are some local equipment companies that sell around the world, like Cleveland’s Grover Tuners and Sperzel tuners, that will be represented, and Mullins expects many of the largest private guitar traders in the country will be there as well. Vendors will also be selling vinyl records and T-shirts.

Mullins said that Grover Tuners and several other vendors are contributing equipment to a raffle to help Guitars for Vets (www.guitars4vets.org), an organization that provides guitars and music lessons for injured and traumatized veterans. One of the items in the auction will be a guitar from Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan.

“There will be a lot to see and a lot to do,” said Mullins. “This is a next-generation guitar show.”

For more information or to reserve a table, go to: https://guitarfestohio.com/. Vendor tables are $60.