Lebanon Blues Festival chair enjoys her role, purpose

Community leader offers insight on giving back.

Ann Smith has served as the chairwoman of the Lebanon Blues Festival for 12 years.

She has worked at LCNB National Bank for 30 years, and is a charter member of the Lebanon Optimist Club. Smith also serves as the chairwoman for LifeSpan.

Ann described herself as an organized person, and she credited her husband, Michael, for supporting her in the various leadership roles. When she’s not working or volunteering, Ann enjoys gardening, reading and working in her craft room.

“My favorite part of the festival is sitting back and watching everyone enjoy themselves,” Smith said.

Presented by Lebanon Optimist Club, the Lebanon Blues Festival will come to downtown Lebanon on Saturday, Aug. 5, from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Admission is free, and the festival will feature eight blues bands.

In addition to the live entertainment, there will be a Red Hot Blues Run, food offerings, a beer garden and a classic car show with over 300 classic cars.

The festival is expected to draw about 30,000 to 35,000 people to Lebanon for the one-day, rain-or-shine event. For more information, go online to www.lebanonbluesfestival.org.

Q: Tell us about yourself. Where do you live, work and how are you involved with the Lebanon Blues Festival?

A: I live in Franklin Twp., but I have worked for LCNB National Bank for 30 years, so that's my involvement or connection with Lebanon. I'm a charter member of the Lebanon Optimist Club, and we began in July of 1994. I'm the chairperson of the Lebanon Blues Festival, and I currently serve as the secretary of the club. At the bank, I'm the senior vice president of Deposit Operations.

Q: Why do you feel it’s important to be involved in the community as far as giving back?

A: I grew up in a family that does volunteer work and gives back in many aspects. I was very intrigued when the Lebanon Optimist Club started in 1994, because their mission is to help the youth of our community. At that point, I had been a youth group leader at our church for many years, so helping kids has always been important to me. That's why I felt it was a good fit to join the Lebanon Optimist Club — to promote and do things in this community for kids.

Q: Could you tell us about the Lebanon Optimist Club and what you do?

A: Lebanon Optimist Club is an international organization like Kiwanis and Rotary. Their focus is to improve the lives of youth in the community. They also promote patriotism and respect for law. Those are the three major components of all optimist clubs. That's why our club is committed to raising money, and we give back all of it, so every penny we raise from the Lebanon Blues Festival, we put it right back into the community. As far as respect for law, we do an "Officer of the Year" initiative. And for patriotism, we have the "Avenue of Flags" program, so when people see the big flags all over town on the five major holidays — that is another fundraiser for our club. The program also promotes patriotism.

Q: How long has the Lebanon Optimist Club been involved in the Lebanon Blues Festival?

A: This is the 19th year for the Lebanon Blues Festival. The Lebanon Chamber put it on for the first two years. Then, they contacted our club about taking it over, putting it on and using it as a fundraiser. So, we've been involved for 17 years as far as presenting it.

Q: How are the monies that are raised used, and how do they go back into the community?

A: This is our biggest fundraiser, and it's how we raise the money that we are able to give back to the community each year. With the monies that we raise, we are able to fund 37 different programs in the Lebanon/Warren County area. Examples include the Warrior BackPack Program, the Children's Advocacy Center and Bridge Riding for the Disabled, among others.

Q: How long have you served as the chairperson of Lebanon Blues Festival? Give us an insight on your leadership role and tell us why you wanted to be involved?

A: I have acted as the chair for 12 years. I've been involved in the Lebanon Blues Festival since we started presenting it 17 years ago. In some capacity, I've always been involved in planning it. Throughout the history of the festival, various people have moved around and taken on different roles. I stepped up and volunteered to chair it one year, and I've continued to do it. I enjoy my role as the chairperson, because I know we're putting on one of the best festivals this town has. I also know what we're going to do with the money we raise at the end, and how many kids lives we are going to change and improve, because of the hard work we do putting the festival on. That's why I keep staying involved in it, and trying to make it bigger and better, because when we make the festival bigger and better and succeed in it, then that means the kids in our community are going to benefit from that, and that's what's important to me.

Q: How does the Lebanon Blues Festival bring the community together?

A: It brings the community together, because it's a family-friendly, fun event. Attendees can experience some great bands. It's also a place for everybody to gather, hang out and enjoy some amazing music. And, with the setting of downtown Lebanon, it's really a great day.

Contact this contributing writer at gmwriteon@aol.com.

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