Family-run Independent Production Company a Rarity in Festival Industry
Independent festival producers are nearing extinction in the music business, with a handful of companies controlling the biggest outdoor festivals. Big budgets, big expansion plans and a sophisticated network to book talent and sponsors are tough competition for family-owned Lagniappe Productions.
Chuck Wentworth, the patriarch of the clan who is 40-plus years into the music business, acknowledges the difficulties. Finding acts is harder than it used to be because agencies would rather deal with a big company. The biggest is Live Nation Entertainment, which controls 60 festivals around the world, including the four-day Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in rural Tennessee, attracting more than 80,000 fans every year.
But Wentworth has always said that he doesn’t want the festival to get too big and lose its family-friendly atmosphere, and while it’s an uphill climb every year to produce a major musical event, he wouldn’t change it. Lagniappe Productions calls for the unique talents of Wentworth, his wife Debbie, three children, numerous in-laws and some of his grandchildren.
Here’s an introduction.
Chuck scouts the bands, makes the musical choices and runs the operation. He orchestrates the daily schedule of bands and oversees all of the site logistics and infrastructure. His musical knowledge enables him to tune in to the tastes of Rhythm & Roots’ loyal fan base, and he’s trusted to bring in old favorites and up-and-coming acts, evidenced by brisk ticket sales that predate any lineup announcement.
Debbie Wentworth works year-round selling tickets, helping festival-goers, contacting vendors and taking the phone calls. Onsite, she runs the accounting side of the festival with daughters Caitlin Minger and Tanya Wentworth Tedeschi.
Son Chucky Wentworth is the “festival fireman,” his father says. He’s on site to handle any situation that involves quick resolution – and there are many. He’s been sent to pick up a band unexpectedly, buy 60 cases of water, fill in as a bartender … or whatever is needed. His wife Lori also contributes in a variety of ways.
Lisa Mencucci, Wentworth’s sister, heads up the festival merchandise booth. His brother-in-law, John Nordberg, runs the bar backstage and helps with hospitality for the artists. Son-in-law Rob Minger runs the beer booths. Debbie’s sisters, Lisa Lee and Lindsey Saylor, and Lindsey’s husband Ross, also help out in the administrative office and on the stage crew.
The Wentworths have nine grandchildren. Drew Tedeschi, the eldest, is in charge of artist transportation and oversees the fleet of 30 golf carts used by volunteers throughout the festival. Jack and Ava Wentworth and Jake Tedeschi work in artist hospitality and artist transportation. Tatum Wentworth for many years watched over her nieces and nephews so their parents could work. “The rest of the grandchildren are still too young, but they’re eager and willing to work,” Chuck says.
In addition to those he’s related to, the 400 or so volunteers who keep the festival running, are part of Wentworth’s extended family. Enjoy the festival!