20th Anniversary Year for FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE!

A Platinum Celebration as Positive Results in Downtown Saginaw Turns a Pivotal Corner

    icon Jul 05, 2018
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It’s amazing to witness the turnaround in Downtown Saginaw over the past two decades back to the time on a hot summer day in July 1999 when one of our region’s pioneering summer festival series, Friday Night Live, first presented a package of six consecutive weekends merging music, commerce, culture and community together in a series of weekly Theme Concerts  held in Morley Plaza on Washington Avenue (M-13) in Downtown Saginaw.

Beginning on July 13th and running through August 17th, this year Friday Night Live celebrates a landmark 20th Anniversary with a divergent array of talent that according to long-time Friday Night Live chairman, Dr. Jack Nash, “represents a showcase of the very best entertainment we could possibly afford, with a lot of new rising national and international acts we’ll be showcasing.”

The entire concept for the Friday Night Live series evolved from a collective goal set by the community service group, Positive Results Downtown, that focused upon freshening things up in the Downtown business district by assembling a top-flight roster of talent for the people of Saginaw that cuts across cultural and economic boundaries through the presentation of a concert series that appeals to everybody in the community.

“Ours is more of a cultural event that showcases some amazing talent in an urban setting in Downtown Saginaw,” continues Nash.  “These are exciting times, since the staging of our first festival 20 years ago, especially with the SVRC Marketplace opening, Delta College breaking ground on a downtown campus, and the Old Wickes Tower being revitalized. Hopefully, all these efforts will bring even more businesses back to the hub of the city.”

Having also involved herself with Positive Results in Downtown Saginaw and Friday Night Live for 20 years now since its inception, Executive Director Jeanne Conger has witnessed firsthand the renaissance of Downtown Saginaw that has occurred in recent years.  “I’m very optimistic about the future and Downtown Saginaw is the best it’s been in years,” she enthuses.

“Our organization has grown so much over the past 40-plus years since we first formed,” notes Jeanne. “When we started out back in the 1970s, we began with developing just a couple events each year and now we have a half dozen events, starting out with Bringing Back the Ice and Ice Blast with The Saginaw Spirit to the Outhouse Races, Holidays in the Heart of the City and The Memorial Day Parade, along with Harvest Days.”

As an organization, the vision that began back in 1975 through the joint efforts
of the downtown Saginaw business community, the Junior League and the City of Saginaw began with a core group of volunteers concerned with the future of Downtown Saginaw. Setting goals 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.

“We’re all working together and seeing the results of our efforts happening now,” reflects Dr. Jack Nash. Positive Results is still working hard to revitalize the central business district and anything positive that comes downtown we’re strongly behind it.  I believe that what is happening now in the central business district is just the start and will take a few years to fully mature. Look at Times Square in New York City 30 years ago and how it has transformed today; and the same has happened in the Flats district of Cleveland, downtown Grand Rapids, and of course midtown Detroit.”

With average attendance at each of the Friday Night Live theme nights pegged at approximately 8,000 people and based upon police grids that are surveyed annually, for both Conger & Nash the quality of entertainment keeps improving, along with the support of community, arts & cultural organizations.

As she reflects upon the very first Friday Night Live series 20 years ago, Jeanne recalls 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.” Today 20 years down the road, the FNL series will pull over 52,000 people into Downtown Saginaw, with numbers varying according to the nature of the theme night and the weather.

Without doubt, Friday Night Live is their signature event and if you have yet to experience the fun, fellowship, and camaraderie that resonates throughout the grounds of Morley Park, you owe it to yourself to experience the musical and cultural richness of this annual extravaganza.

Break out the champagne!  Here’s a roster of this year’s 20th Anniversary performances:

ROCKIN’ THE RIVER • July 13th • Pauly & the Goodfellas.   Opening act: Earth Angels

Kicking off the FNL series will be Canadian act Pauly & the Goodfellas, who tours internationally with this ‘History of Rock ‘ Roll’, which was born in America’s south; the musical child of gospel, ragtime, and the blues. It was first heard in the cotton fields, plantations and in the small towns and villages on both sides down the mighty Mississippi River. It was new, different, special, and held a beat and a feel that, once heard, could not be denied. It traveled up the Mississippi at a time when Americans were struggling to find their new identity after a depression, a war, and social upheaval that would change the face and sound of not just America, but the entire continent.  According to Jeanne Conger, “This group does a musical history of Rock & Soul music dating all the way back to the 1950s and ‘60s.”   Opening act, Earth Angels hail out of the Detroit area and consist of younger performers doing a musical retrospective of early Rock & Roll that dress in the era of the music they are singing. “Some of the people on our Board heard them in Frankenmuth and felt their vitality would help bring a younger crowd downtown.”

KICKIN’ COUNTRY • July20th • Natalie Stovall.

Opening Acts Michele Spitz ‘A Tribute to Linda Ronstadt’ • Alex Schofield

Natalie Stovall and her band, The Drive, are relentless road warriors. Performing over 200 dates each year across college campuses, clubs, festivals and military bases around the world.  Natalie, a Tennessee native, is a powerhouse vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, who has been playing professionally since she was ten.  A fiddle phenomenon, Natalie made her Grand Ole Opry debut at the age of 12 and has performed everywhere from the White House to The Oprah Winfrey Show.  She was named one of CMT’s “Next Women of Country’ and was recently awarded “Best Female Artist” and “Best Music Artist” by Campus Activities Magazine.  Natalie has been touring with Bobby Bones and the Raging Idiots as a featured performer while writing and recording for her 2018 release.

“Natalie appeared nationally on The Voice and will fit in nicely with our local opener, Michele Spitz, who has developed a compelling tribute to legendary vocalist Linda Rondstadt,” notes Nash. “We are also going to feature a young guy out of St. Charles named Alex Schofield, who is living in Nashville right now. He will present a short 30-minute set of country originals and classics and is a young up-and-coming artist.”


LATIN FIESTA • July 27th • Tejano Sound Band.     Opening Act: Estella De Oro

Tejano Sound Band is one of Lansing Michigan’s premier Tejano acts. TSB has a long and rich history, Tejano Sound Band is known known for their stage presence, hi-tech sound, and light show. The band has shared the stage with many artists and bands from Texas and across the country. The band has shared the stage with many artists and bands from Texas and across the country.

“Tejano Sound performed at last year’s festival,” notes Nash, “and drew a very large audience. We have two bands listed for Latin Night, but really it’s closer to three, as Tejano Sound is bringing a special female singer with them to do a brief set of Latin Music.”

ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE • August 3rd • Air Margaritaville   Opening Act: Momma Mokey & the Smokey Lynx

Air Margaritaville is based out of Ohio and one of the top and most popular Jimmy Buffet Tribute Bands working the festival circuit.  All are experienced musicians who are able to entertain and delight people of all ages to the soothing sounds of Caribbean Soul.

A LEGENDARY NIGHT • August 10th •

Featuring Stevie Wonder (Lavel Jackson)  Elvis (Bob Grief) & The Beatles (Beat Club).

You won’t believe their authenticity as three top Tribute acts represent The Beatles, Elvis and Stevie Wonder. The Beat Club is delivering one of the most authentic Beatle-tribute acts in the country!  Each member is a "Beatle" veteran, with ties ranging from double first-place honors at national Beatle-tribute band competitions to performances at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

Bob Greif and Lavel Jackson are local entertainers who perform with many other groups as well as their own solo performances. Each possess remarkable vocal prowess and delivery.

MOTOWN MUSIC FEST • August 17th • Horizons with special opening guest Larry McCray.

Horizon is a popular Detroit-based group that puts Motown back on the map with their precision, choreography and harmony. Their style and class along with their ability ‘to put out and put on’ a dynamic show is no secret to their many fans across the country. Members include Prentiss Jones, Eli Starr and Rick Ingram, leader and founder of this fabulous entertainment act. Their high-energy show is a harmonious blend of acting, singing and dancing with a touch of comedy that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.

They have had the distinct honor of representing GM/Chevrolet at International Auto Shows across the country for nine years and Chrysler at the Michigan State Fair for four years. They have had the pleasure of performing their hit single “Swing Engine” in St. Croix where the record was number one on the charts for months as well as a great response to the video which was seen on “BET’s Caribbean Rhythms.”

“This year we didn’t want to simply showcase a Motown night, because we’ve received many requests to feature a Blues Night,” notes Nash. “Horizons have been a favorite at Friday Night Live for the 20 years we’ve staged it, so for the opener we felt it would be appropriate to bring Saginaw’s one-and-only Larry McCray back to his hometown to close out the Festival.  By far, this is one of our best year’s for featuring quality music.”

According to Jeanne, other special features at this year’s 20th Annual Friday Night Live will include free pony rides for kids on Country Night, plus a new Dance Floor is being installed for patrons to enjoy, which is being sponsored by Tom Braley.  “I would also like to thank the Saginaw Police Department and Saginaw Reserves, who do an excellent job keeping the crowd flow properly managed.”

People can also expect improved sound quality over previous years. “With the recent demolition of the ‘Gargoyle’ building on the river facing Genesee street, we no longer have the echo that was caused when sound hit the structure; plus, we are angling the speaker placement away from the Huntington Bank Building, so we’ve resolved similar issues with that structure.”



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