June 3, 2013

Annual Cole Porter Festival returns this weekend

Four-day fest offers music, food & theater.

By Carson Gerber

PERU — There’s a face plastered on every light pole in downtown Peru — the face of legendary song writer Cole Porter.

And that can mean only one thing: The Cole Porter Festival is just around the corner.

The 22nd annual festival celebrating the life and music of Peru’s hometown hero kicks off Thursday and runs through Sunday, offering music, food, theater and a chance to see some of Porter’s childhood stomping grounds.

Porter was born in Peru in 1891, and went on to write more than 1,500 songs like “I Get A Kick Out of You” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” that have become part of the American musical landscape.

“Cole Porter is such a huge name in Peru’s history,” said Elise Kordis, director of the Miami County Museum. “This is a Cole Porter town, and the festival really makes it come alive. We really appreciate the opportunity to celebrate his heritage.”

That celebration gets going Thursday evening with the premiere of “Cole Porter in Space,” an original stage production from Ole Olsen Memorial Theater.

Kordis said the play puts a unique, outer-space spin on some of Porter’s most popular tunes.

“Don’t miss out on the fun as we follow up on previous journeys with Cole with the ultimate trip … To outer space,” reads a blurb on the festival’s website.

“It looks fantastic,” Kordis said. “It’s very different. It’s taking Cole Porter to new places.”

The play begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Peru Depot, 154 S. Broadway. Tickets cost $32, and include a dinner catered by the Peru Civic Center.

On Friday, visitors can head to the Peru Community Schools Art Gallery from 1 to 5 p.m. to check out paintings from artists like Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, as part of the art collection donated by Peru native G. David Thompson.

Afterwards, head to Day and Night restaurant to listen to the band Choral Reef from 9 to 11:30 p.m.

The festival really gets going on Saturday, when more than a dozen bands will jam out from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. inside the Miami County Museum, and outside on Fifth Street starting at noon.

The Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra will headline the festival, performing an all-Cole Porter concert at 7 p.m. inside the Peru High School Auditorium. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

“These guys are a pretty big name and really great performers,” Kordis said. “It’s going to be a great show.”

To cap the night off, a late night cabaret will be hosted at the Ulrey Annex, 56 N. Broadway, starting at 9 p.m.

Throughout the day on Saturday, check out some local art during the Miami County Community Artist Co-op from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., or catch a bus tour to Cole Porter historic sites.

Before you take the tour, get some background on Porter during one of Charles Troy’s presentations on his life and career starting at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

If you’re working up an appetite, stop by one of the food vendors set up downtown from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The festival closes on Sunday with the Cole Porter Classic Car, Truck and Bike Show from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Kordis said more than 100 cars showed up last year, filling up most of Broadway.

“Even if you don’t have a car in the show, come check this out. It’s cool,” Kordis said.

You can also buy raffle tickets for $2 for a chance to win an iPad, Kindle Fire HD or other prizes.

Kordis encouraged anyone who wants to hear some good music, watch a good play or just enjoy a day learning about Porter to head to Peru for the festival.

“All the music people hear today probably has some kind of influence from Cole Porter,” she said. “You still hear his songs in TV commercials. His music is all over. So take the opportunity to learn about a legend, and come experience some art and culture.”