Final Preparations

Area residents planning to partake in this year’s Lucille Ball Comedy Festival will have no shortage of options in the way of activities.

The festival, which runs from Wednesday through Sunday, will feature a multitude of opportunities to make its attendees laugh in a number of venues in the immediate area.

In recent years, downtown Jamestown has been the place to be during the week of the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival. Acting at times like a magnet for talent, the festival boasts a long and star-studded roster of comedy greats who have participated over the years, including: Ray Romano, Ellen DeGeneres, Lewis Black, Billy Gardell, Joan Rivers, Paula Poundstone and Tammy Pescatelli.

This year’s festival will not disappoint as it brings in its most notable headliner to date: Jay Leno. Fresh off 21 years of hosting “The Tonight Show” on NBC, Leno is notable in comedy history as the late-night standard bearer tasked with replacing legend Johnny Carson.

According to a press release from the Lucy-Desi Museum and Center for Comedy, Leno’s impending Jamestown visit is a huge milestone for the organizers of the festival.

“Such an appearance, coming so soon after Leno retires from ‘The Tonight Show,’ is the sort of timely booking necessary for an area trying to brand itself as a national center for comedy,” the release said.

Leno’s sold-out Saturday performance at the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena will round out an additional three days of performances presented by a host of fellow comedians. Joining the growing ranks of Lucille Ball Comedy Festival alumni this week will be Tom Cotter, Kerri Louise and Caroline Rhea. As has become tradition in recent years, Lucie Arnaz – daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz – will also be participating in the festival.

In the days leading up to the festival’s commencement, participating venues are beginning to take on the appearance of Lucy-themed attractions. On Monday, employees of the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts, the Dykeman-Young Gallery and the Jamestown Gateway Train Station could be seen preparing to play host to the variety of activities scheduled at their respective establishments beginning Wednesday.

“The real (Lucy) fans are really going to like this because it’s stuff that they’ve never seen before,” said Michael Dykeman, owner of the Dykeman-Young Gallery, while building a display of Lucy-oriented photographs, paintings, decor, clothing and memorabilia.

According to Steve Neilans, marketing and communication coordinator for the Lucy-Desi Center, the fact that so many individual venues are involved with hosting the comedy festival means that the physical set-up for the show generally takes place the week of the event.

“There are a lot of things that go into making (the festival) happen, and now it’s at the point where we’re getting everything together and setting things up so that, when people get into Jamestown on Wednesday, it looks like this is the way things are all year long,” he said. “With this year’s festival being bigger than last year’s, it definitely feels like there’s more to do. There’s a lot of man hours and coordination that goes into it, and there’s a lot more people involved with helping out this year.”

Journey Gunderson, executive director of the Lucy-Desi Museum and Center for Comedy, added that coordinating with the center’s community partners is a key component to preparing for the festival.

“You can plan as much as you want, but there’s only so much you can actually do ahead of time,” Gunderson said. “There’s a lot of setup that has got to happen the week of (the festival) because everybody’s busy doing their own stuff, too.”

Due to Leno’s stature in the comedy community, a larger venue was required to accommodate the crowd size required to warrant a performance in Jamestown. The Jamestown Savings Bank Arena, which can seat in excess of 2,000 people, stepped up to the plate in order assist in making Leno’s visit possible.

Gunderson said this is the first year the arena has acted as a participating venue in the comedy festival, and is a welcome addition to the festival line-up.

“I really have to hand it to the leadership of Brian Cersosimo, the new general manager (of the arena), and Brittany (Mason) on his staff – and the rest of the staff – because they have been fantastic in helping us figure things out,” she said. “Brian and Brittany and their staff have just been amazing to work with; and it’s comforting. It makes us want to partner even more going forward, and that goes for all the venues that we’re working with. We feel a great sense of community collaboration and partnership, and feel that everything is gelling in this community; and we appreciate it very much.”

For more information on the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, visit www.lucycomedyfest.com, or call the Lucy-Desi Museum and Center for Comedy at 484-0800.

A listing of the events to be held in this year’s festival can be found on Page A9 of today’s edition of The Post-Journal. For further information, visit www.lucycomedyfest.com.