By Ryan Richardson
Globe Staff Writer
CARL JUNCTION, Mo. —
The annual Rhythm and Hues festival in Carl Junction is changing venues and names this year, as organizers look to focus the event on helping a family devastated by a recent traffic accident.
The new festival, dubbed Jazz and Java, will focus on raising funds for the Washburn family of Asbury. It will be staged Feb. 22 at the high school.
John Washburn, his wife, Deborah, and their three daughters, Abby, 19, Samantha, 13, and Karli, 12, were hit head-on Jan. 12 in their SUV by a vehicle headed west in an eastbound lane of Interstate 44 in Jasper County.
They were on their way to St. Louis to return Abby to college after Christmas break. John Washburn, 58, and the driver of the other vehicle, Bonnie Weaver, 75, of Tulsa, Okla., died in the crash. Deborah and all three daughters suffered serious injuries, and are hospitalized at the University of Kansas Medical Center at Kansas City, Kan.
Abby, Samantha and Karli all attended Carl Junction schools and participated in the district’s music program. Band director Ryan Churchill said Samantha and Karli are both flutists.
“After the accident and knowing that this year’s festival (was drawing nigh), we asked ourselves ‘what can we do?’ because we still had the date, we just didn’t know how to change things,” Churchill said. “We had debated before that taking a year off to regroup, because we wouldn’t be able to do the art side of things in the same way because of the loss of the gallery near the auditorium.”
The auditorium on the main campus flooded over Christmas break, so it was not available for Rhythm and Hues, an annual music and art festival for area schools to support arts in the area.
Churchill said that after the accident, it became obvious to the organizers what they could do.
“Rhythm and Hues was about the community support of the arts; this will be about us supporting the family,” Churchill said. “Our kids are missing them, and we still think about them. Their seats are still here, and they will be, and they will also be in our prayers.”
Churchill said that Feb. 22 is still the date for the event, which features area school music students and artwork from students. The group is completing the lineup while notifying other schools of the changes to the festival.
“The feedback that we have received right now has been great, and a lot of them understand that we have had to change how this year’s festivals will go because of the flooding of the auditorium,” Churchill said.
Tracie Skaggs, public relations director for Carl Junction schools, said that she expects the night will be bigger than usual.
“There have been a lot of questions on what we can do for the Washburn family, and the Jazz and Java will be an excellent way for people to come out, take part and support them,” Skaggs said. “This is already one of our biggest events at the school, and I think people are really going to support it even more now.”