A Convergence of Talent, Sunshine, & Civic Mindedness into the Perfect End of Summer Celebration

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music,   From Issue 731   By: Robert E Martin

25th August, 2011     0

Since its inception seven years ago, the annual Parkapalooza Music Festival at Sanford Lake Park has turned into the perfect synthesis of talent, sunshine, and community, bringing together elements of music, natural splendor, and civic-mindedness into one of the finest ‘end-of-summer’ celebrations to be found in Michigan.

This year Parkapalooza will be held on Sunday, September 11th and run from high noon to 8:00 PM.  A key fundraiser of the Dstreet Entertainment Foundation, eight exceptional bands will be featured along with a divergent array of family activities scheduled throughout the day. With free admission to the Park by foot, bicycle or boat, if you bring a vehicle into the park there is a $6.00 fee.

As Parkapalooza has grown throughout the years, bringing thousands of people into play while supporting a fitting array of community organizations, we hooked-up with Festival Organizer Ed Kerns to glean his impressions upon the significance of Parkapalooza over the years, while finding out what surprises are in store for 2011.

Review: As you enter the 7th year of Parkapalooza, did you ever think it would evolve into such a supported and pivotal event as it has managed to become back when the idea for staging it first surfaced? 

Ed Kerns: I wish I could say Dstreet had a 10-year plan when first we conceived of Parkapalooza, but it just isn’t so. Our intention was no loftier than simply putting great music in a great venue. I do think the event has evolved nicely in the past 7 years. Each year we try to tweak things a bit to make it even better. We’re very proud of what it’s become and very grateful for the support of the community and our sponsors.

Review:  Please tell me about this year's line-up, not only in terms of bands & entertainment, but also whatever family activities you have organized.  Are there are any new bands or faces in the line-up?

Kerns: I can humbly confirm that Parkapalooza will deliver another stellar musical line up this year! I emphasize ‘humbly’ because the quality of the music has little to do with Dstreet and everything to do with the shear depth of musical talent available in the Great Lakes Bay region. Even more remarkably, these bands volunteer their time and considerable talents to give back to their fans and the community.

The 2011 line-up will feature a mix of Parkapalooza fan favorites and acts appearing at the festival for the first time. They are: Honesty & the Liars, Jimmy & the Growlers, The Juice Roosters, Butch Heath, Shoobooty, The Sinclairs, Burnaround and Steel Wheels. It’s sort of ironic that some of our ‘new faces’ are legendary performers in the area. I guarantee that nowhere else will you find diverse acts like country classic Butch Heath, edgy Burnaround and bluesy Jimmy & the Growlers sharing the same stage.

Sometimes the great music tends to overshadow the rest of the festival, and one new addition this year is Michael’s Crafts, who will join Home Depot in providing ‘make it and take it’ crafts for kids. Of course, we’ll also have inflatables, a climbing wall, sand-sculpting contest sponsored by Chemical Bank, a spray-ground and much more, and it’s all for free!

Another addition this year will be an increase in the number of not for profit groups displaying throughout the park. You’ll be able to do everything from adopt a puppy to learn about elder care. Dstreet is pleased to offer these groups a place in the sun to share their information.

Review: Given that the event falls on 9/11 this year, are there plans to acknowledge or commemorate the bravery displayed on that fateful day for its 10-year anniversary?

Kerns: Parkapalooza is always held on the second Sunday in September. It was designed to coincide with Founders Days in the village of Sanford (where Sanford Lake Park is located). The Sanford Festival is a wonderful old-timey event, and I like to think of Palooza as the nightcap to Founders Day.

That our event falls on the 10th anniversary of September 11th is coincidental, but the significance will not be forgotten. We don’t plan any formal ceremonies to mark the date, although I know the day will be acknowledged in a number of ways. Maybe most important is the festival itself. I can’t think of a more fitting recognition of the enduring American spirit.

It is also notable that the Steel Wheels band will be closing for us that night. They do a very moving and incredibly patriotic show. I’m certain that their set on that night in that venue will be memorable.

Review: How much money has Dstreet raised for charities over the years and what do you feel is the core purpose for holding Parkapalooza?

Kerns: I think it’s important to remember that Dstreet itself is a 501(c) 3 charitable organization, and Parkapalooza is our biggest fundraiser. We use the proceeds to fund our mission programs like scholarships for music minded individuals and BandWagon, where we collect used instruments, refurbish them, and put them in the hands of deserving kids. We welcome people to check us out at to learn more. In fact, we currently offer a scholarship online that as yet, goes unclaimed.

That said Dstreet has given over $10,000 over the years to groups as diverse as the Michigan Musicians Relief Fund, Disability Network and Adopt-a-Child’s Smile, among others.

I don’t know if there is a single core purpose for holding Parkapalooza. Certainly we raise funds, but it has always been Dstreet’s mindset that first we do a quality event and then, hopefully, we make money. One of our essential doctrines is to bring music to the people. With Parkapalooza we accomplish this for everyone from toddlers to grandmas.

Review: What do you feel is the most challenging component involved with staging this event annually?

Kerns: At the risk of sounding cynical, the most challenging aspect is raising money. Even though virtually all our help is volunteer, it’s still quite expensive to produce the event, with costs like insurance, the sound provider, etc.  Fortunately, we’re blessed with a number of generous sponsors. Unfortunately, these are tough economic times, and even the most civic-minded sponsors have understandably experienced some serious belt-tightening.

Review: Are there any highlights or standout moments for you that seem to epitomize what the significance of this event represents within the Great Lakes Bay community?

Kerns: There have been a few things over the years that stand out. At last year’s festival I was approached by the father of a young mentally challenged boy. The dad thanked us for doing an event where his son can run around unrestrained, have fun, and listen to the music. He says they come every year.

Similarly, one of the band members this year was excited to be included because Parkapalooza is a place he can play where his kids can watch him perform. I think it’s so cool that it is truly a family event.

It seems like there is a moment at each Palooza when I get to step back and reflect. A great band is working on stage in the middle of the beach, thousands of people are in front of them, a beautiful lake and an armada of boats is behind them – and the energy is incredible. That’s what makes Parkapalooza special.

Editor’s Note:  For a detailed listing of performance times and more information, please check out the display ad on the back of this edition of ‘The Review’.



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