The 35th annual Adams Avenue Roots Fair will take place this May 3 and 4, but founder Lou Curtiss is on his way out.
Curtiss started the event on the SDSU campus in 1967 and moved it to Adams Avenue in 1994. He has been an unpaid member of the Adams Avenue Business Association Board, which oversees the Roots Fair (as well as the larger Adams Avenue Street Fair) ever since. The event now draws 40,000 music fans annually.
Curtiss will not be running for reelection when his term is up this month, thereby giving up his involvement in the events organization. He has several grievances with the current board and believes the event has been watered down since the passing of the board's former business director, Marco Angiuano, in 2006. Angiuano gave Curtiss free reign to book (within budget constraints), but today his choices must be approved by a committee he feels isn't knowledgeable about roots music.
"I wanted to bring a Cajun group from Louisiana here. I heard someone ask, 'Why? We have groups here that play that type of music.' "
The board's executive director, Jim Schneider, spells out the Roots Fair booking policy.
"As with any big concert of this type, we're just looking for someone that's going to draw, within the fair's stated genres," Schneider says. "We wouldn't necessarily take a local act over a national one, but we do have to factor in a limited budget."
According to Schneider, SDSU professor emeritus Joel Henderson will be "largely" responsible for booking this year's event, with Curtiss advising.
Schneider considers Curtiss "an integral part of this festival. If Lou does follow up with his decision to leave, he'll be sorely missed."
Curtiss has considered starting up another showcase but has ruled it out for the moment because "somebody would have to come up with a good sum of money to get something like that under way."
In the meantime, he will continue converting his archive of vintage recordings into the digital format. Curtiss is currently in the process of transferring the 3000 songs performed at the fifth edition of the Roots Fair in 1972.