The biggest names in comedy come to Jamestown every year because Jamestown is now the place to go for comedy in America. “We’ve gained a reputation with the country’s best comics for filling theaters, for great crowds and for audiences that love the comedians’ best, new material,” Journey Gunderson, Executive Director of the Lucy Desi Center for comedy said on Wednesday, April 9, at the Gateway Train Station when she announced the lineup of stars for Lucy Fest 2014.
After a record-breaking 20 years dominating late-night TV ratings as host of “The Tonight Show”, Jay Leno is making Jamestown one of his first stops, returning to standup comedy on stage in front of the footlights of Lucille Ball’s hometown. Jay Leno and Tom Cotter will be the headliners for the 2014 Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, August 6-10.
Emmy Award-winning singer and dancer, Lucie Arnaz, will return to Jamestown, too, joined by a “Comics to Watch” showcase hosted by comedian Caroline Rhea featuring some of the hottest rising comedians, three nights of Late-Night Comedy in the Tropicana Room with a live album recording co-produced by Rooftop Comedy, renowned “I Love Lucy” impersonators from Universal Studios and Lucille Ball’s five-time Emmy-award-winning costume designer, Ret Turner.
Every year’s attendance records at Lucy Fest appear to be dwarfed by the following year’s crowds. This year local merchants, businesses and civic organizations will be rolling out their own red carpets to sponsor and host the projected crowd of 15,000 visitors expected to line the streets, fill hotels and occupy restaurant tables as never before. “And it’s the people of Jamestown who make this event a success as much as the stars who come here,” Gunderson said. “Our hometown people are always a big part of the show.”
Attendance records are not the only records set to be broken this year. Lucy Fest is calling all local residents and visitors to step up and star in this year’s attempt to set another Guinness World Record. This attempt will call for even more people than the 916 Lucy-lovers who gathered in Jamestown’s Tracy Plaza to set a new Guinness World Record as polka-dot dressed, red-headed Lucy Ricardos during the 2011 Lucille Ball Comedy Festival.
This year, it’s all about grape stomping. The Guinness World Record for the most people treading grapes in one place is currently held by 977 foot stomping residents of Labastida, a wine producing village of 1,500 people in the province of Álava, in the Basque Country of northern Spain. They set their record on September 25, 2010. Nearly 28 tons of grapes were turned into almost 4000 gallons of juice.
“Watch out, Spain, we are coming after you,” Gunderson said. A vat is now under construction for Jamestown that may hold 1,000 stompers and more on Saturday, August 9th. The source for what could amount to 30 tons of grapes has not been determined yet. The famous and ever-popular grape stomping scene is from “Lucy’s Italian Movie,” season 5, episode 23, which first aired April 16, 1956 on CBS.
Comedy Grows Economy
An estimated $3.6 million flowed into Chautauqua County during the five-day Lucy Festival in 2011 along with 13,000 visitors and tourists. In 2013, the festival drew visitors from 29 different states and four countries to Jamestown honoring the legacy of “The First Couple of Comedy”.
The National Comedy Center in downtown Jamestown, whose master plans were completed in 2013 by the Lucy Desi Museum & Center for Comedy, is slated for groundbreaking in the near future. Estimates for the economic impact for Greater Jamestown and Chautauqua County range as high as $25 million annually while hosting 125,000 guests and visitors every year from across the country.
The economic impact will largely benefit the local hospitality, housing, food and service industries, along with transportation, travel, clothing and many other local businesses, year round.
Legacy of Laughter
The Lucy Desi Museum & Center for Comedy envisions a four-pillar Legacy of Laughter. The first pillar is the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, followed by a comedic arts education program, a comedy film festival and the establishment of the first National Comedy Center. Planning and progress in now under way on all four initiatives.
The first Lucy Fest was planned many years ago with the direct involvement of Lucille Ball herself along with community leaders in Jamestown. Lucy’s dream was for much more than the perpetuation of her own work. She expressed a passion to nurture new and rising comedic talent and to create a place and an environment to celebrate comedy itself as the best and most healing of all medicines.
Pre-sale tickets for the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival went on sale to museum members, sponsors, and supporters Friday, April 11th at noon EST. They can be purchased by visiting www.lucycomedyfest.com or calling the Lucy Desi Center for Comedy box office at (716)484-0800. Public on-sale begins April 18th at noon EST.