Summer's Swan Song Shines the Light on Talent & Civic Mindedness in the Great Lakes Bay

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music,   From Issue 754   By: Bo White * Additional Reporting by Robert Martin

31st August, 2012     0

Hmm…summer is over, already? But it's only just begun!  I remember like it was yesterday shoveling snow and watching the shiver on the river and thinking “it's too damn cold out, now I know why my grandparents migrated to Florida every winter.”
But wait a minute…I'm not ready just yet to bid adieu to summer. I do not want to feel cold ever again. NEVER. I want to bask in the warmth of the sun and listen to that good old rock & roll. It will never die; believe me - especially if we have people like Ed Kerns and D-Street Entertainment Foundation president Darrin DeMott keeping music alive in Midland County, which they've been doing religiously for 8 years now with the annual Parkapalooza Festival.
After all, music is the food of love; so prepare for some righteous nourishment. It all takes place at Sanford Lake Park. Yes THAT Sanford Lake. It's the lake that we've all been swimming and sun bathing in since we've been babies. Years later we took our children there to swim, frolic and grill some hot dogs and burgers… good times, indeed. And it's been revisited for several generations since. It feels good just to know Sanford Lake is still there and it is still a cool place to be. You can't argue with a half-mile of lake frontage and 1000 feet of soft sandy beach. It is a local paradise; just add music and you will be in heaven,
D-Street Entertainment Foundation has enlisted a Bonnaroo-like eclecticism by lining up bands that embrace diverse rhythms, melodies, syncopation and beats. Rockers such as The Banana Convention, Jerkwater Town Boys and The Screaming Casanovas will hit you like a punch in the chest. It hurts so good. Chromatic Effect plays a hybrid of jazz and blues with some cool eastern influences and an appreciation for melody. Steel Wheels is just a flat out great country band with a well-deserved following. Magnum will provide the funk and R & B while The Sinclairs will take you back in time for some tasty classic/retro rock, while Empty Canvas will blow your mind with something entirely different.
There is music and activities for everybody. The bands are an excellent cross section of what is happening in mid-Michigan for 2012 and beyond. Prepare to snap your fingers, move your feet and get your groove on to the beat of Parkapalooza.
Both Ed Kerns from the Midland Park System and Darrin DeMott of D-Street agreed to sit down and talk about this year's show
How were you able to convince the Midland Park System to give you the go ahead for Parkapalooza?
Kerns: First, in the interest of full disclosure, it's important to know that I've worked for Midland County Parks for nearly 30 years. Way back in 2004, when Parkapalooza was just an idea, it came from the perspective of something that was good for the parks and good for our visitors. It has always been the parks intention to give our customers the best recreation experience possible, and offering an end of the summer family festival is just an extension of that.
The fact that I've been a musician even longer than 30 years made having music as the core of Parkapalooza a natural fit for me. Partnering with D-street was a natural progression and that partnership has worked very well for the past 8 years.
There are many many people involved, from civic groups to other nonprofit organizations. The city of Midland makes their stage, and set up assistance for their stage, available to us and that is a great help.
As you enter the 8th year for Parkapalooza it has consistently grown into a pivotal end-of-summer celebration, drawing people from all over the region and beyond.    What are your thoughts in terms of how this event has grown over the years and what role do you feel it serves the greater community throughout the Great Lakes Bay?
DeMott: I'm very excited to see people from all reaches of our community asking about Parkapolooza. It is a true testament to the hard work our volunteer board puts out every year to make this such a great day. Eight short years ago a small upstart non-profit was looking for a way to enrich the community by supporting worthwhile causes, while in turn promoting some of the wonderful talent found here in the Bay area. From our humble beginnings drawing a few hundred spectators to a crowd of over 6000 last year, Parkapolooza continues to be the place to be for those interested in promoting music education and art. 
How much does a free concert cost you to put on?
Kerns: You've heard the expression; “If you have to ask, you can't afford it”? It's sort of like that. The show costs Dstreet several thousand dollars in out of pocket expenses, for everything from advertising to ASCAP to porta-potties, but the real costs are shouldered by our volunteers, underwriters and generous sponsors. There is no such thing as a free concert and without those folks, Parkapalooza would be unaffordable.
How much time and effort have you put into this?
Kerns: It isn't an easy task, and there are many good people who work on it. Dstreet is a group whose best work is done literally behind the scenes. Our board and volunteers work on this project year around. Typically we begin discussing the festival in February and it snowballs into the manic stage around June and July. If we do it right, on festival day it should look easy.
Who are your staff, how many volunteers?
Kerns: We are all volunteers. Dstreet has a governing board, right now made up of nine people. Our President is Darrin and our board members are Bill Morand, Pat McFarland, Gene McFarland, Heather and Ben Cohen, Joe Caudy, Rob Caulkins and me. For an event like Parkapalooza we will have about 100 volunteers in total. That includes the bands who are volunteering their time and talent to support D-street's mission.
How much money has D-Street raised for charities to date and how does Parkapalooza impact and further the goals and purposes of D-Street?
DeMott: D-Street as donated over $20,000 dollars to date to local charities due to the generous support of the community at large and our Sponsors over the years. For D-Street, 100% of our monies go back into the community in one way or another. Our board is a voluntary one and the sacrifices made by them throughout the year is immeasurable. Parkapolooza is the sole fundraiser for D-Street and it funds all our programs throughout the year from Band Wagon, to Scholarships to donations to local charities. D-Street is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the tri-county area by promoting music, education and the arts.
How did you choose the bands?
Kerns: Seven years ago it was really easy to choose the bands. We simply begged everyone we knew and whoever said 'yes' was in. It is gratifying and humbling that playing Parkapalooza has become a hot ticket in recent years and we've been lucky enough to have a great talent pool to draw from. The hard part now is narrowing the line-up to just eight great bands. We look for acts that have wide appeal, that are family friendly and that are true professionals. It isn't easy to get on stage with limited or no sound check, hit your spot, wipe the sweat from your eyes, and play. There are many players who are wonderful musicians, but just wouldn't be comfortable in that setting.
DeMott: This years line up includes some notable bands of palooza past. Everyone from Laurie Middlebrook and Steel Wheels to The Sinclairs and Jedi Mind Trip. Coming back for the 2nd year is Burnaround and Triple Play. Hipakritz has always been a fan favorite and a new addition to the line up is Screaming Cassanovas. The line up is a great representation of what's happening in and around the Saginaw Bay area. 
Do you film or record the show?
Kerns: Midland Community Television often records the show for broadcast. We've talked about doing an audio recording, but wouldn't do it without express permission from the bands. In a way, it would be counter-productive. Parkapalooza is about the spirit of the music, not musical perfection - and that doesn't translate easily to tape.
Why did you choose a Sunday?
Kerns: The festival is a tie in with Founders Days in Sanford (where Sanford Lake Park is located) Founder's Days begins Saturday and wraps on Sunday.  It is a wonderful old-timey celebration with bean soup, a craft show, parade…etc.  I like to think of Parkapalooza as a nightcap to Founders Day. Plus, on a very practical level, most of our bands are working late Saturday night and are kind enough to roll out of bed and entertain us on Sunday! 
What do you feel is the biggest challenge involved with producing and carrying this event forward each year?
DeMott: The biggest challenge we face today is Sponsorship. Last year we lost our main sponsor and to date we have been unable to secure one. We have become very good at operating on a shoestring budget but without the help of our sponsors it becomes increasingly difficult to put on these types of events. If you are looking to sponsor a worthwhile cause then we would love to talk to you.
Kerns: We are grateful to be sponsored by Charter Communications, MidMichigan Health, The Great Lakes Loons and Chemical Bank and Trust. Our Insurance is underwritten by the Miller Insurance Group.
How has D-Street evolved since its inception and what are some of your organizational goals for this year?
DeMott: D-Street has evolved from a small board founded by Dave Dauer, Ed Kerns and Dennis Beson and a $50 operating budget to a nine-member board with a modest  $20M operating budget. Our goal this year and years to come will be to promote music in all areas at all levels through volunteer programs such as Pig Gig, scholarships to deserving students in our area, donated musical equipment to those rich in desire to provide an opportunity for their child to learn a musical craft but limited in their ability to provide an instrument for them due to cost.   And most importantly, financial support to local charities in the Saginaw Bay area
This is a family friendly show. What other activities do you have for children/families?
Kerns: There will be a huge silent auction, free wood crafts from Home Depot, a Climbing wall provided by The Rock, the Turtle Tide SplashPad, A Geo-caching demonstration, Disc Golf with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, a Bounce House from North Midland Family center, a Scavenger Hunt, Sand sculpting contest…the list literally goes on and on.
 We'll have a great variety of food available, from hot dogs, to gourmet sandwiches to chicken dinners. 
The bands will be able to sell (and autograph) their merchandise after their set, but it may surprise you that there will be a minimum of other vendors. We want Parkapalooza to feel like a festival and not a flea market. Families can literally walk in with no money and enjoy the show and activities.
I do have to add that Midland County charges a $6 parking fee if you park inside the park. There will also be inexpensive offsite parking available with a free trolley, or bike- taxi ride into the park. 
Can folks bring their own food and beverages? Can they barbecue?
Kerns: Absolutely! It's a park after all. Only one major caveat; hard liquor is not allowed - and this is without exception. Beer and wine in moderation are fine, but as you've pointed out, it is a family festival. We owe it to our sponsors, the parks and other festivalgoers to keep it that way.
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?
DeMott: There are many that come to mind, but throughout the year but one that stands out in my mind is the recent recipient of the D-Street Scholarship for 2012. A young man by the name of Nathan Reinshuttle from the Pinconning School district who wrote an essay that was among many and reviewed by our board for the sole purpose of securing a scholarship for the fall season.
Nathan's Essay stood out above the crowd and he was awarded our scholarship. This young man was a drum major who plans to attend CMU. The award was presented by two of our board members Bill Morand and Gene McFarland. This is really what D-Street is all about. I wish we could give a thousand of them away every year. 
Sanford Lake is beautiful. How does Midland County keep this natural wonder viable, beautiful?
Kerns: The Park has gone through a lot of positive changes in recent years. It is a beautiful facility and we work hard to keep it that way. Ironically one of our most significant problems now is managing the crowds who have discovered this park and often come from great distances to enjoy it. It is growing pains in the truest sense, but we're pleased and proud to be a place people want to visit.
Any last comments?
Kerns: I'd like to let people know about a raffle we're promoting. Dstreet is giving away an iPad (3), a Kindle Fire and an iPod Nano. Tickets are $5, support our foundation and will be available at Palooza or now from any Dstreet board member. All prizes will be awarded that day and you need not be present to win. Also we are seeking contestants for this year's sand-sculpting contest sponsored by Chemical Bank.
There is no fee to enter and there will be $150 in prizes. Rules and registration are available at


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