DANVILLE —Watching two guys in suits duke it out verbally on live television won't be the entire focus of the vice-presidential debate experience on Oct. 11.
There's also the Debate Festival, a free event on Centre College's main lawn.
"This is meant to be a celebration of the democratic process," said Steve Hoffman, executive director of the Norton Center for the Arts, the debate hall on campus. "So we're trying to make it as family-friendly as possible."
The Debate Festival attracted about 5,000 people when Centre hosted the vice-presidential debate in 2000, and Centre anticipates an even bigger crowd this time around, Hoffman said.
AARP, the powerful lobbying organization for 37 million people age 50 and older, is the primary sponsor for the Oct. 11 festival, which begins at noon and will feature national and local music acts.
"That's what the festival is about: being able to showcase what we have locally," Hoffman said.
Hoffman also promises "a few surprises," but wouldn't say what those are during a recent interview.
"At about 8:15 p.m., we will have a really special Kentucky staple," Hoffman said.
Once the music stops, people will be invited to watch the pre-debate ground rules and the debate on a giant screen on the lawn. The debate begins at 9 p.m.
After the debate has finished at 10:30 p.m., a concert by The Marshall Tucker Band begins. The Southern rock band was big in the '70s, with hits like Can't You See and Heard It in a Love Song, which went to No. 14 on the Billboard charts. Founding member and vocalist Doug Gray is still with the band.
The Marshall Tucker Band will play until about 11:30 p.m., Hoffman said.
The pre-debate acts include Ben Sollee, Aly'An, the Danville Children's Choir, Earthman Lanny Smith, Centre's Brass Ensemble and The Kentucky Ensemble, a Centre student-faculty music group.
Sollee, a Lexington native, is a classically trained cellist who has shared the stage and/or recording studio with the Louisville-based rock group My Morning Jacket and jazz banjo player Béla Fleck.
Sollee graduated from the University of Louisville in 2006 with a degree in music performance. He performed on 200 programs of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour at the Kentucky Theatre in Lexington before heading out on a solo career. His new album, to be released Tuesday, is titled Half Made Man.
Aly'An is the Mercer County duo Alyson Burke and Andrea Warner. Burke is a graduate of Centre. The duo held a party for the release of their first album at Eddie Montgomery's Steakhouse in neighboring Harrodsburg.
"They're on their way and we thought, what a great homecoming of sorts," Hoffman said.
The Danville Children's Choir was originally formed in 1990 under the direction of Bruce Richardson, a former Perryville mayor. It performed in major cities including New York and Baltimore, as well as local venues, before it discontinued in 2005 as Richardson's business, Elmwood Inn Fine Teas, grew.
The choir re-formed in 2011 under the direction of conductor Meg Stohlmann and accompanist/assistant conductor Daniel Wesley. The Danville Children's Choir sang with the Vienna Boys Choir at the Norton Center in November, Hoffman said.
Earthman Lanny Smith is a singer/songwriter who has brought an environmental message to hundreds of festivals and elementary schools. He will bring his "Please Don't Litter" concert to the Centre lawn.
People attending the festival will be subject to a search of their belongings, Hoffman said.
Melton's Deli, a Danville business, will provide food for the festival. Papa John's will offer pizza. And even though Danville is "wet" now — the city was "dry" in 2000 — alcohol will not be allowed on campus, Hoffman said.
AARP also will bring its "You've Earned Your Say" TourMobile, in which visitors can give voice to their ideas through interactive tablet computers. Information also will be available about Medicare and Social Security proposals on the table in Washington.