The Goodridge kids have grown up with the blues.
The Magic City Blues, to be precise.
Their parents, Tim and Pam Goodridge, have been putting on the annual music festival in downtown Billings since 2002. One way or another, their three children—Henry, 21, Will, 18, and Jane, 16—have part of the festival for most of their lives.
All three of them, joined by their 18-year-old cousin, Jace Von App, up from his home in Salt Lake City, are heavily involved again this year. The 16th annual Magic City Blues gets underway Thursday, when Victor Wainwright and the Wildroot put on a free show at St. John’s Lutheran Ministries, 3940 Rimrock Road.
In the early days of the festival, the Goodridge children would spend the week before the festival with Pam’s parents in Circle, which usually included a couple of days at Fort Peck Lake, so Tim and Pam could devote themselves to getting ready for the big weekend.
Tim took care of most of the organizational chores—ticketing, booking, etc.—while Pam did the social media, graphics and advertising. Pam’s sister, Lisa Von App, used to come up for three or four days every year to help out, so her three children, including Jace, would also spend the week with their grandparents in Circle.
“It really helped the kids to bond,” Tim said. “It became kind of a reunion thing for a while.”
Pam’s parents would generally bring all six kids to Billings on the Thursday before the festival, where they could attend the free show at St. John’s. After Magic City Blues expanded to include a Sunday performance at South Park, they’d also attend that family-friendly show.
Then, as each of the kids entered high school, they started volunteering at the festival.
“The freshman year of high school is when they became authorized to work in the merch tent,” Tim said, making it something of a rite of passage. This year, his brother’s daughter will put in her first shift at that post.
“This is the official welcome to adulthood in the Goodridge family,” Tim said. “You get to work in the merch tent at Magic City Blues.”
As they got older, the kids’ duties expanded to include a wide variety of chores, from making sure T-shirts were packed in the bins and inventorying banners to separating wrist bands into packets of 20, counting extension cords and setting up tables and chairs.
“I’m everybody’s slave,” Will said, as his siblings and cousin nodded knowingly. “If anyone needs anything, they find me and order me around.”
For 16-year-old Jane, there’s never been a time when her family wasn’t working a blues fest or getting ready for the next one.
“I remember how long it’s been going because it’s the same age as my daughter,” Tim said.
One of Jane’s most memorable experiences was in 2010, when she was 8 or 9. She and a cousin were dancing backstage during a performance by Michael Franti when Franti’s manager spotted them and invited them to dance on stage—which they did, for an audience of thousands on a crowded Montana Avenue.
Henry, now in his seventh year of working the festival, has been at it the longest. He is also the only one being paid, for good reason. Tim Goodridge started working a year and a half ago as coordinator of the East Billings Industrial Revitalization District, which gives him less time to devote to Magic City Blues than he once did.
“He’s working 9 to 5 now, so I’m in charge of most of the day-to-day stuff,” Henry said.
Henry comes home from college in Massachusetts in the summer to work the festival. He handles the ticketing, coordinates merchandising for all the visiting performers and personally travels the state putting up Magic City Blues posters.
“If you see a poster for the blues fest anywhere in Montana, I put it up,” he said. How many are there? “I’d say it was getting pretty close to 7- or 800,” he said.
Cousin Jace started volunteering at the festival when he was 13, working the merch booth and helping set up tables and chairs on Montana Avenue.
He’ll never forget the scene last year, when it started pouring run during Ziggy Marley’s headliner performance. All at once there was ankle-deep water on Montana Avenue and people were frantically running for any shelter they could find—even under the tables in the merch tent.
Henry said the siblings and their cousin get along well, and over the years have learned how to deal with stress as a team.
“It’s made it easy for us to yell at each other and then just let it slide off,” he said.
And because Magic City Blues is always in August and takes so much time to prepare for, the Goodridge family has developed an unusual tradition.
“We never took any family trips in the summer,” Jane said.
Instead, the Goodridges would take their family vacation during the Thanksgiving break, traveling to Las Vegas, Atlanta and Canada, among other places.
When the kids were younger, Tim said, he and Pam got a lot of help from other relatives—and from a large group of community volunteers who come out year after year. But as the kids got older and stepped into roles with more responsibilities, many of the other family members have backed off, finally taking a break.
“As they got older it’s just a godsend because they can do so much stuff,” Tim said. It’s kind of like the old Chinese restaurant model, with the parents in the kitchen and the kids out front, dealing directly with their customers.
Jane said it’s so exciting every year that she doesn’t even realize how tired she is until the festival is finally over. All of the kids plan to keep working the festival as long as Tim and Pam need them.
“Until they poop out, I think we’re stuck doing this,” Jace said.
For details on the 2017 festival lineup, tickets and other information, go to the Magic City Blues website.