Early Fall (or Indian Summer, as we like to call it in Michigan) has always been my favorite time of year. The temperatures are warm, pleasant, and tolerable; the skies are bluer and consistently more cloud free, but mainly its due to the fact that in Michigan the season is so short that by the time September rolls around, its way too early to bid adieu to summer.
The folks at DStreet Entertainment Foundation possess a firm understanding of this reality, which is why they save one of the best festivals in the Great Lakes Bay for early September, free from the frenzied summer melee of festival mania, at a time when patrons can bask in the sun and soak up musical nourishment on a half-mile of lakefront and 1000 feet of soft sandy beach at Sanford Lake Park for what has come to be known as the annual Parkapalooza Music Festival.
This year the 9th Annual Parkapalooza Festival will take place on Sunday, September 8th from 12:00 noon - 8:00 PM with an exceptional concoction of live music, kid's activities, a sand sculpting contest, and a huge silent auction; all converging in a swan-song to summer that shines a bright beaming light on talent and civic mindedness in the Great Lakes Bay.
Embracing a broad artistic eclecticism, the line-up at this year's Parkapalooza Festival draws together a divergent array of divergent rhythms, melodies, and musical sensibilities, ranging from the 70's - 80's rock 'n roll foundation of Acapulco Gold to the contemporary raving and rollicking 'new Country' posture of Dani Vitany & Ten Hands Tall, the rock & country blend of The Juice Roosters, and the formidable crowd pleasing talent of established acts such as The Matt Ryan Band, The Sinclairs and Steel Wheels, rounded out by the newly formed R&B sensibilities of Avenue 5, and closing out with the substantial and perennially passionate rock 'n roll cadence of Burnaround.
Insofar as it functions as a key fundraiser for the DStreet Entertainment Foundation, with free admission to the Park by foot, bicycle or boat; and a meager $6.00 parking fee if you bring a vehicle into the park, as Parkapalooza has grown throughout the years, bringing thousands of people to the banks of Sanford State Park while supporting a broad array of community organizations, The Review sat down with festival organizer Dennis Beson (of the DStreet Entertainment Foundation and lead-singer for the ever popular Sinclairs) to glean his impressions about the significance of Parkapalooza while breaking down what music fans can expect for the 2013 incarnation of this incredible event.
Review: As you enter the 9th 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?
Beson: Looking out from the stage over the past nine years I can safely say that this event has gone from several hundred patrons to several thousands. What originally started as a nice little event has grown into an event that is now an anticipated day of family fun to wrap up the summer. As far as the role Parkapalooza serves throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region, I would have to say it fits completely into our non-profit mission, which is to bring low or no cost concerts to the community to help better the quality of life in general for the citizens through music. Parkapalooza is a family friendly event that deals with people of all ages and is still free (aside from $6 parking) to attend thanks to great sponsors that make it happen.
Review: Please tell me about this year's line-up - how did you arrive at selecting the performing artists; and do you get a significant amount of requests from bands to perform?
Beson: The Board of Directors gets together each year around March to pick the final lineup. We try to find bands that have a natural following of fans, coupled with some bands that might be up and coming or at least new to Parkapalooza. Each year selecting bands becomes more and more difficult. When we started the event we had our struggles just finding enough bands that were willing to volunteer their time to an unknown event. There are now a few bands that people have somewhat come to expect see perform because they have a good following, so we do try to find at least three to four bands that have been at the event in the past.
But this year we have four bands that have never played Parkaplooza before as a band: The Matt Ryan Band, Acapulco Gold, Avenue Five, and Ten Hand Tall. We try to bring in bands that have some genre variety to them, but we do try to keep the genres in line with the crowd that attends. Generally the focus is on rock, country, and some blues. We have started adding acoustic acts between some of the bands throughout the day. This year we have Bob Hausler, Levi Rose and Hooker, and Tyler Short and Earl The Squirrel.
As for the new acts, Avenue 5 features some outstanding musicians that were mainstays in other bands that decided to put together an “all star” lineup and it features Tony Purifoy on vocals, Noel Howland on vocals & keyboards, Dave Miller on guitar and vocals, Joe Clark on bass and Andy Scott on drums & vocals.
Acapulco Gold features a great variety of rock specifically from the decades of 1970 & 1980 and The Juice Roosters have blended both rock and country into their set list and provide a fun show with some talented musicians.
Review: Are there any new activities or ancillary events that you have planned for this year's festival?
Beson: We will be displaying our new fold out 20' x 20' “Mobile Stage” that will be available for rent to area groups in need of a stage for their events. There will also be a designated “Alcohol Free Zone” for those that want to bring families and prefer to limit their contact with alcohol. We also have some new sponsors, such as Associated Builders and Contractors of Midland (Greater Michigan Construction Academy), and The Merrill Institute have joined; plus we received a generous donation from Bay Eye Care.
Still with us is our long running supporters Mid-Michigan Health (University of Michigan Health System), Chemical Bank, Charter Communication, The Great Lakes Loons, Miller Insurance, Midland Parks, Home Depot and Review Magazine.
Review: 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?
Beson: Since the beginning of Parkapalooza, Dstreet has donated over $10,000 to various local charities. Dstreet is a non-profit 501-3C organization and the past two years we have used the majority of the money that we have taken in toward two major programs that we run, The Band Wagon and Music Scholarships. Bandwagon is a program where we take used instruments that are donated to us, we refurbish them and then allow economically challenged families to “check them out” like a library book and use them until either the child no longer would like to be in band, or their economic situation improves enough that they can return the instrument to us so that we can use it for another family.
Our scholarship program allows us to give money to music minded people who would like to further their education in either college or trade school endeavors. This year at our November 14th event at The State Theatre featuring Gretchen Peters we will be providing approximately 15% of our profits to the YWCA of Bay County as a continued effort to give back to the community. We also will be looking for a winter event similar to our Rock This Country event from a few years ago where another non-profit will benefit.
Review: What do you feel is the biggest challenge involved with producing and carrying this event forward each year?
Beson: In our economically uncertain times these past four or five years, finding company sponsorship has been challenging and that is why we can't thank the sponsors we have enough for sticking with us and seeing the value that Palooza has to the community. We are very fortunate, however, that we have a great point person in Ed Kerns who has been one of the originators for this event since the beginning. He is tremendously organized and his relationship to Midland County Parks makes most things run very smooth.
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?
Beson: When I see folks arriving as early as 9:00 AM to map out a spot for their picnic tables that is when I know we have created a good event that people look forward too. The other thing that stands out for me is when fellow musicians tell me how cool the event is and they ask almost as soon as they leave the stage if they can come back next year.
Review: How has D-Street evolved since its inception and what are some of your organizational goals for this year?
Beson: When I joined the organization the focus was on promoting bands in the Tri-City area and although that is still part of who we are, the largest evolution is the amount of energy we put into bringing music as a whole to the community in three important ways. Free or low cost concerts, the bandwagon program for getting kids started in music, and then our scholarship program designed to reward music minded people who choose to continue their education into adulthood. The coming year brings a few new goals. Develop a winter event along the lines of “Rock This Country” and also develop a “Summer Tour” for our Mobile Stage for the Bay, Saginaw, Midland Area Communities to experience a free concert in their town.
Review: Any closing thoughts?
Beson: Once again this year admission is free however there is a $6 fee to park with additional parking available at St. Agnes Catholic Church. We do provide a people mover to get people from the auxiliary parking lot at the church to the park. Coolers are allowed, however no glass bottles allowed. This year our silent auction will be featuring some larger items to bid on such as tickets to various sporting events and other larger items and because of these items we will have a credit card method of payment available.
I would also like to extend a heartfelt thanks to all who support this event through your monetary donations and to those that come out each year to support the musicians.