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The Big Event returns to UW-River Falls

October 11, 2007

Don’t forget to wear your earplugs.

On Oct. 13, the Wall Amphitheatre on the UW-River Falls campus will resonate with the sounds of wailing guitars, booming drums and soaring vocals as local and national musical acts gather to perform for a single cause: to help build a school for vulnerable children in Kampala, Uganda.

The Big Event, UWRF’s music festival with a mission, is back for a second year. Co-sponsored by the UWRF chapter of Building Tomorrow and the Student Arts and Entertainment Committee (SEAC), the concert’s roster includes Atlanta, Ga., singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins and Twin Cities musicians the Alarmists, the Exchange, JoAnna James, and Yawo. The music starts at 3:45 p.m., following the homecoming football game.

SEAC member Tanya Hartwig expressed excitement over this year’s diverse concert lineup, which runs the gamut from West African music to indie rock.

“It’s [going to] be great, quality entertainment,” Hartwig, a senior, said. “It’s a fantastic lineup of really awesome music.”

The musical roster will appeal to a variety of people, UWRF Event Coordinator Karyn Wells said.

“We want college students to be interested, we want community members to come, and we want it to be kid-friendly,” Wells said. “I think all of those audiences will enjoy the music.”

Making the Big Event kid-friendly this year is the addition of the Little Event, a kids’ carnival featuring games, arts and crafts, face painting and the musical stylings of local singer-songwriters Candi Ince and Eric Edwards, as well as a West African band that will lead drumming and dancing activities. The Little Event will be held on the Intramural Fields and will run from 4-6:30 pm.

Admission to the festivities is free. However, that does not mean that attendees should leave their wallets at home, Wells said. A raffle and the presence of donation booths will give concertgoers ample opportunity to make monetary gifts toward the Kampala, Uganda school building fund.

But more significant than dollars, she said, is the chance for the UWRF chapter of Building Tomorrow and SEAC to make audience members cognizant of the realities facing schoolchildren in Uganda, 82 percent of whom are not able to receive an education past elementary school.

“Even though raising money is important for this event, it’s also important to raise awareness for this cause,” Wells said.

According to its Web site, Building Tomorrow is “an international non-profit organization empowering young people to raise funds & awareness to benefit vulnerable children in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Building Tomorrow defines vulnerable children as those orphaned or otherwise personally affected by the AIDS/HIV epidemic currently ravaging Uganda and other African nations.

Statistics on the organizational Web site state that 940,000 children have been orphaned by AIDS in Uganda. An additional 110,000 are actually living with the virus, according to the Web site.

There are currently 10 college chapters of Building Tomorrow in the United States, all of which have promised to raise money for the erection of schools in Uganda to educate these vulnerable children.

The UWRF chapter has pledged to raise $10,000, said member Kasey Barrett. And thanks to last year’s Big Event, sales of Ugandan necklaces at the University Bookstore and a River Falls High School fundraiser, the chapter is only $6,200 away from its goal, she said.

To help reach the $10,000 milestone, Barrett said that Building Tomorrow hopes to “triple” the Big Event’s attendance from last year.

After witnessing the hardships faced by Ugandan schoolchildren during the UWRF Building Tomorrow’s chapter trip to Uganda last January, the junior said that she is especially dedicated to the Big Event cause.

“It makes you appreciate what you have in America,” Barrett said of her trip. “I think a lot of Americans take education for granted.”

Amy Lloyd, UWRF leadership coordinator and Building Tomorrow advisor, said she would like for the Big Event to enlighten UWRF students about issues larger than themselves.

“I think it’s important that students gain this global perspective,” Lloyd said. “Here at River Falls, you can make a difference somewhere in the world, and have a tangible result from your efforts.”