There is little doubt that the Pandemic of 2020 changed the musical landscape as we have known it over the past 18 months; but for the folks at DStreet Music Foundation, whom have staged their groundbreaking Parkapalooza Music Festival on the beach at Sanford State Park for the past 15 years, the devastating loss of Sanford Lake due to the dam breach during the floods of 2020 added an entirely different dimension of challenge to their endeavors by hitting them with a double-whammy.
Not to be deterred from their mission, DStreet continued to focus forward like a Phoenix rising from the ashes of the abyss, and is now busily preparing to celebrate their ‘Sweet 16’ birthday celebration of Parkapalooza by moving it to Midland’s Chippawassee Park at the Tridge on September 12, 2021.
Recently, I sat down with DStreet President Georgie Poprave and board member Jeffrey Reno to discuss this year’s festival, along with how DStreet as an foundation managed to weather the lockdowns and the flooding that impacted not only Parkapalooza, but also affected DStreet as an organization.
REVIEW: How have the past 18-months affected your financial stability and ability to function as an organization, especially given your focus on charity work and important arts programs such as BandCamp, scholarships, and contributions to educational programs such as All Music Is Power (AMP)?
Georgie Poprave: The DStreet board had some tough decisions to make regarding cancelling our Freeland and Sanford Paloozas due to the pandemic. We remained hopeful that we would be able to provide our Freeland Palooza this past June, but in the end felt it was a little too soon. Thankfully, DStreet has still been able to continue our Bandwagon Program of taking in used instruments, refurbishing them, and lending them to students who otherwise would not be allowed to experience of learning to play an instrument. We have been grateful to be able to continue providing to the community through scholarships and our Bandwagon Program.
Jeffrey Reno: The loss of Sanford Lake was devastating to those in Sanford as well as Midland. The morale in Sanford was at a low, but the community banded together and set goals that are still being met today. Covid was still rearing its head during this time. Some families were dealing with the pandemic on top of losing their homes and all the possessions in them. The DStreet Music Foundation was built around the Midland and Sanford communities. DStreet members continued to hold virtual board meetings during this time and focused on ways to boost morale for the communities. We found it extremely difficult to plan any type of event that would be face-to-face due to the State’s restrictions. Putting on Parkapalooza is an expensive endeavor, but seeing the community coming together to support the arts is worth it.
REVIEW: What have been your primary goals for the past 18-months and what restructuring did you have to make in order to navigate through and adapt to this crisis while remaining connected with your Mission Statement, supporters, and fans of DStreet's endeavors?
Georgie: Our primary goal for the last 18 months was to continue to work on the 2 programs we could still maintain - our Bandwagon Program and our Scholarship Program. We continued to take in used instruments, cataloging and refurbishing those on our priority list. With the change in venue for our upcoming Parkapalooza from Sanford to Midland we also decided, along with Sanford Strong, to provide a Pop-up Palooza to the Sanford community. This will take place on Sunday, Aug. 1 at Porte Park and will resemble a scaled-down version of our Parkapalooza event. All donations and revenue will go back to the village of Sanford as they continue to rebuild from the devastating floods.
REVIEW: Please tell me about the band line-up, activities, sponsors, and programming that you have lined-up for Parkapalooza 2021; and how did you make the decision about where to stage it this year?
Georgie: Once again, Parkapalooza will bring a variety of musical talent from around the tri-city area! These bands donate their time and love of music to entertain us each year. The line-up this year includes: The 101st Army Rock Band, Coleman Road, Cold Cut Trio, Hipakritz, Screaming Casanovas, Damsel and the Stress, Todd Michael Band, and Peacemaker. We feel this is a great mix of musical entertainment for everyone! Along with that amazing line-up, there will also be inflatables for the kids, Home Depot make and take crafts, a variety of community organizations, as well as food vendors. Again, this year, Garber Buick has offered to be our main sponsor and will have cars and trucks available on site.
Jeffrey: It was a difficult decision, but due to the situation in Sanford, we felt that we should look at options for a different venue. We believe that Midland Chippewassee Park will meet our needs, and the Tridge will provide a unique concert experience. There will be two stages set up on either side of the Tridge and bands will be able to play simultaneously. The main stage will be for full bands. The smaller stage will be on the Farmers Market side and showcases the acoustic /songwriter side of music from 11 am - 5 pm. We feel that this will be a bonding moment for people and communities who have experienced turmoil in the past 18 months. We anticipate our largest number of attendees and Chippewassee Park will be able to accommodate this.
REVIEW: Having held Parkapalooza for 15 years on the banks of Sanford Lake, along with many ancillary activities such as the Sand Sculpture Competition directly tied-in with the beach environment, how did you have to restructure the festival; and will your methods of presentation and engagement change as COVID restrictions are further lifted?
Georgie: The best thing about music is that it can be enjoyed anywhere! Sanford Lake Park served us well for many years, but we are excited to bring it to Chippewassee Park and the downtown Midland area. Die-hard Parkapalooza goers will not miss a beat, and "new-to-Palooza" attendees will enjoy our new venue just the same. Thankfully Parkapalooza is an outdoor event, but as Covid restrictions and mandates are constantly changing, we will monitor the CDC's guidelines and follow any suggested protocols necessary.
Jeffrey: With the change of venue, Parkapalooza will definitely look different this year but will continue to be the fun music experience people have come to know. Even though many Covid restrictions have been lifted we are putting everyone's well-being as our number one concern. Vendors, nonprofit organizations, and other community businesses will be at Parkapalooza.
REVIEW: What has been the most challenging component involved with re-staging the festival and advancing DStreet's mission over the past 18 months?
Georgie: Anytime a change is made there is a learning curve that takes place. Our board members have navigated that curve beautifully. We've stayed vigilant in our missions and have continued to do what we can over the last 18 months. The City of Midlandhas welcomed us with open arms and have been wonderful about guiding us through the ins and outs of holding an event at Chippewassee Park. We feel that people are ready to enjoy social events again, safely, and both DStreet and the City of Midland are enthusiastic about making that happen.
Jeffrey: The most difficult decision was transitioning from the Sanford venue to the Midland venue. The Sanford community has always been an integral part of Parkapalooza and we did not want them to feel as if we abandoned them. The Pop-Up-Palooza in Porte Park is an intimate setting for Sanford friends and family to know that there are people and organizations that continue to support them.
REVIEW: What are some of your goals for the next year and what do view D-Street's role as we continue to navigate through this 'New Normal'?
Georgie: DStreet hopes to continue providing music events to the community in a variety of different ways, as well as providing instruments to underprivileged individuals and scholarships to music-minded students. Through this "new normal" we will remain focused on our mission and continue to be an active part of the musical community.
Jeffrey: Our goals will remain the same as our past and present have always been. We will bring music to the people through low to no-cost shows, loaning instruments, and giving scholarships. What we do know is that each year will be more exciting than the last.