2015 Season Kicks Off with 100th Performance, a Stellar Line-up of Entertainment, and 40th Anniversary of Making a Difference in Downtown Saginaw

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music,   From Issue 812   By: Robert E Martin

02nd July, 2015     0

When they staged their first summer concert series known as Friday Night Live seventeen years ago, the organization known as PRIDE in Saginaw had no idea that the growth and significance of their festival would mirror and inspire the growth, resurgence, and renaissance that is happening today in Downtown Saginaw.  But now as the cusp of their 2015 outdoor concert season unfolds PRIDE (which stands for Positive Results in a Downtown Environment) is celebrating their 40th Anniversary and the 100th performance of their benchmark festival on July 11th with a stellar line-up of entertainment along with a fresh logo and a new name.

The story of PRIDE is one of commitment, compassion, and vision that began back in 1975 through the joint efforts of the downtown Saginaw business community, the Junior League and the City of Saginaw to stop the exodus of business and erosion of the tax base that started happening to the Central Business District when entities began moving operations to suburban malls in the 1970s, creating structural vacancies within the city.

Beginning with a core group of volunteers concerned with the future of Downtown Saginaw, the goals of PRIDE centered upon attracting new business to the downtown district, encouraging and supporting the existing business & professional community, and beautifying the downtown environment. The organization also strives to create a positive and constructive image of the Downtown area, while unifying and coordinating support within the efforts of numerous organizations all with an eye towards promoting and stimulating ongoing activities that are attractive to people and businesses.

As Saginaw Future came into being PRIDE shifted their focus from business retention and development to a special events focus designed to showcase the wonders of downtown Saginaw with such events as the Annual Christmas Parade, The Ethnic Festival, Holidays in the Heart of the City, the Memorial Day Parade, Harvest Days in Downtown Saginaw, The Ice Blast (in conjunctions with The Saginaw Spirit, The Outhouse Races – which represents the group’s newest endeavor – and of course their signature event, Friday Night Live.

But 40 years down the road PRIDE continues to serve as an independent community organization with its own 501c3 status, a volunteer Board of Directors and one paid employee; only now four decades later they can bare witness to their many achievements, which have spearheaded a renaissance in Saginaw’s historical downtown district that is a blueprint for how dreams can be transformed into realities.

True to this vision, one of the pivotal and most successful endeavors spearheaded by PRIDE is the summer concert festival series known as Friday Night Live, which for six-consecutive weekends merges commerce, culture and community together with the realization of possibilities in a series of weekly ‘Theme Concerts’ that are held in Morley Plaza on Washington Ave. (M13) in Downtown Saginaw.

“Anything good for downtown is part of PRIDE’s mission,” explains coordinator Jeanne Conger, who has been with the organization since the beginning, helping facilitate such successful entities as the Downtown Farmers Market.  “Initially we worked with the Michigan Department of Agriculture to develop the Farmers Market; and actually the organization grew out of the Downtown Saginaw Association, as one of our key focus points was centered upon economic retention. But with the new Bancroft/Eddy renovations, the First Merit Event Park, and two new schools and new restaurants emerging, these are exciting times. I can’t think of anything nicer than to see the downtown full of people wandering around,” she reflects.

New President Linda McGee has also been involved with PRIDE since the beginning and echoes the accomplishments that have been achieved in the downtown area along with fresh enthusiasm for what the future holds. “We are on the cusp of big things downtown,” she states, “which is why we thought it important to update our name and mission to reflect these times. With the CMU Medical School, Delta College opening a satellite campus, and more interest in downtown given  the many cultural opportunities featured here and fostered by the Temple Theatre and Dow Event Center, we thought our name should reflect the ambiance of this new era.  Positive Results in Downtown Saginaw says more about what we are. There is no confusion as to who we are and what our goal is with the new logo and brand and name.”

As she reflects back upon Friday Night Live’s humble origins back in 1997-98, Jeanne recalls how at that time the annual Gus Macker Basketball Tournament had moved out of the city. “We were looking for a new event and Linda McGee was a PRIDE Board member that told us of this outdoor event in Traverse City, which their downtown association held for local people,” she explains.

“I remember when Linda and I went up to Traverse in the middle of a snowstorm to meet with this group, and it looked like a great event; but we realized pulling something similar together in Downtown Saginaw would be a little different because we didn't have the business support in the area to provide restaurants and bars to patrons.  So we thought why not make all that happen within our park by bringing in food vendors, pulling entertainment together, and arrange for a beer tent.  Out of that our first six week event was created.”

Jeanne also recalls how people were skeptical about its success. “Many said this event would never fly, but with our first series we went from a few hundred people the first night to a situation where the numbers started doubling each consecutive week. It snowballed and by the final show in the series we had just under a thousand people attending.”

“I also remember how with that first festival we featured a then unknown Keith Urban,” adds Linda. “We’ve also featured Rascall Flatts, The Glenn Miller Orchestra and Saginaw’s own New Reformation Band. And another year we had Lady Antebellum scheduled, but then they hit really big nationally and ended up canceling.  Indeed, it is very gratifying to think that today with this festival we are able to bring anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 people into downtown Saginaw for six Friday nights out of the summer, depending upon the weather and nature of the theme night.”

Apart from the nature of entertainment and mix of vendors provided, an important component of its early success is the platform of nostalgia that Friday Night Live created. “A lot of lifelong Saginaw residents remember how happening Saginaw was when they were younger,” notes Jeanne, “and I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to see it happening once again today.”

The success and appeal of Friday Night Live demonstrates how contemporary challenges can be overcome whenever ideas are advanced that appeal to the constructive investment of time, talent, and resources within a community, which in turn replaces negative elements with positive pro-active approaches that shine a light of achievement upon what is attainable.

Here’s a rundown on the top-notch entertainment that you can expect at PRIDE’s 17th annual Friday Night Live Concert Series.


Classic Rock Night:

The Randy Brock Group wsg Donny Brown • July 10th   For their 100th  evening of Friday Night Live organizers will feature The Randy Brock Group.  Formed in 1996 they have since been one of the most sought after bands in the Detroit music scene. Randy and his group have had the honor of sharing the stage and opening for some of the most legendary names in the music industry, such as Journey, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Eddie Money and Ted Nugent. Opening will be former Verve Pipe co-founder Donny Brown, who recently embarked upon his own solo career.


Country Night:

David Bradley wsg Moonshine Mavericks • July 17

David Bradley’s distinctive soulful sound and undeniable English charm are adding a unique flavor to the world of Country music. An established resident of Nashville, David hails from Northern England and regularly brought home American country music tapes from his frequent trips, which helped shape David’s musical direction. He has just completed his sophomore release with renowned Nashville producer Rivers Rutherford and follows on the heels of his debut release, ‘Movin’ On’. His release Hard Time Movin’ On has given Bradley the distinction of being the highest charting Brit to break into the Country music charts in the United States.  Opening will be Bay City’s Moonshine Mavericks.


Latin Night:

Los Arcos Hermanos Pena wsg Los Hermanos Villegas • July 24.   For 35 years these headliners have enjoyed entertaining fans all over the United states and include members Jerry Pena (accordion); Luis Pena Jr (bajo sexto), Larry Pena (saxophone); Gilbert Pena (bass), Fidencio Pena (drums) and vocalists Oscar Pena & Luis Pena III. This family band from Dimmitt has built their success on hard work and extraordinary talent, and has played alongside Conjunto, Tejano & Norteno legends at festivals and other events.


Carribean Night:

Parrots of the Caribbean wsg One World Island Band • July 31. This group is one of the leading Jimmy Buffett tribute bands currently operating the musical circuit.  Lead singer Dave Albrecht has developed an uncanny likeness to Buffett in both looks and sound, as he has emulated Jimmy for over 10 years. He even fashions Jimmy’s harmonica style by listening to Greg ‘Fingers’ Taylor from Jimmy’s Coral Reefer Band.


Oldies Night:

The Larry Lee Band wsg The Fabulous Retreads. Larry Lee is a former NFL star with the Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos who later went on to become vice president of the Detroit Lions from 1993-2001. His group is a funk, Motown, R&B, Blues, Classic Rock & Oldies group and he has performed on bass for more than 25 years and played with several notable artists such as Roy Ayers, Vesta Williams and Wayman Tisdale.  Opening will be The Fabulous Retreads featuring Saginaw’s own Michael Brush.

Motown Night • Horizon wsg Soul Xpress.  Popular Detroit-based group Horizon puts Motown back on the map with their precision, choreography and harmony. Their style and class along with their ability places them at the forefront in terms of presentation of a dynamic Motown show that has drawn them national attention.  Bay City’s Soul Xpress opens this evening of top-notch entertainment.




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