Once again the community service group known as Positive Results in Downtown Saginaw (PRIDE) is leading the way and bringing life back to Downtown Saginaw by resuming the 22nd season of their groundbreaking Summer Concert Festival series Friday Night Live, which will kick-off on July 16th with a series of weekly concerts that will run through August 20th.
Starting back in July of 1999, and long before Party on McCarty and other summer concert productions followed suit, PRIDE first introduced the concept for packaging six consecutive weekends of top-notch entertainment that merge commerce, culture, and community together through a series of Theme Concerts that are held in Morley Plaza on Washington Ave (M-13) in Downtown Saginaw, starting at 5:30 PM and running until 9:00 PM.
According to longtime FNL entertainment chairman Dr. Jack Nash, what distinguishes Friday Night Live the most is premier level of talent they bring into the region. “Most of the other festivals feature local talent, which we do as well for our opening acts; but we bring in the best national talent we can afford for the community, largely thanks to our sponsors who have come to back us up, along with the businesses in Saginaw that want to see Downtown Saginaw truly prosper.”
Indeed, the entire concept for the Friday Night Live series evolved from a collective goal set by the Positive Results Downtown that focused upon freshening things up in the Downtown business district by assembling a top-flight roster of talent that cuts across cultural and economic boundaries through the presentation of a concert series that appeals to everybody in the community.
Having also involved herself with Positive Results in Downtown Saginaw and Friday Night Live for over 20 years now since its inception, Executive Director Jeanne Conger has witnessed firsthand the renaissance of Downtown Saginaw that has occurred in recent years.
“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.
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 22 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 the FNL series will pull over 50,000 people into Downtown Saginaw, with numbers varying according to the nature of the theme night and the weather.
Restarting the Legacy
Given the fact they had to skip last year’s festival series, both Jeanne & Jack say this year’s program will be similar to those staged in the past, although some of the Theme Nights will have different names to fit the nature of the entertainment being presented.
“A lot of the bands that we had booked for last summer agreed to return this year and we were able to get about 85% of those acts back,” explains Jeanne. “We had an issue with one of the Canadian acts that we had booked getting here and back to Canada because they still have restrictions there and would have to quarantine for two weeks after leaving us, so it was unfeasible for them to do the show.”
In terms of non-musical family activities, Nash explains this year they will be staging various art projects for kids and would like to bring some original art vendors down to display and sell their artwork. “We are limited on space and have a lot of food vendors this year, but would like to work with original regional artists as opposed to retail or craft oriented sellers and see what happens. Mainly, we want to get this series out of the box first and see how the crowds develop and if people are still afraid or if they come out in the numbers they have in the past.”
Food vendors this year will consist of Asilee’s Kitchen Cuisine, who feature seafood gumbo with catfish or windings and sandwich baskets; Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church who will provide ice cream; Divine Taste of Chicago who will feature catfish & codfish; Cool Carts to Go with hot dogs, popcorn and cotton candy; Papa John’s Pizza, Saginaw Waffle Hut, who will feature chicken, waffles, lobster, shrimp, deep fried ribs, and more, T&T Concessions & El Farolito, who specialize in Mexican food; Big Earl’s BBQ, Flavor Island, and Maria’s who will feature sweet corn and fruit.
“By focusing on providing the region with the best entertainment possible, our goal is to continue to successfully draw new faces into Downtown Saginaw,” concludes Jack. “One of our biggest assets is the river because people are attracted to water, so when you can showcase talent like this on the bank of the Saginaw river, that creates its own synergy.”
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.
Here’s a breakdown on this year’s entertainment, with commentary provided by Dr. Jack Nash.
July 16 • A Tribute to Chicago featuring The Chicago Tribute & 3rd Degree Burns
“3rd Degree Burns are a youth group out of the Lapeer area that provide a music school so kids learn how to play and perform on their own instruments. We featured another group a few years ago who basically did Karaoke, but these kids play their own instruments and are really good, so we wanted to feature them.
The Chicago Tribute are one of the top Tribute bands specializing in creating the music and sound of the ground breaking rock-brass fusion band Chicago.”
July 23 • Riverfront Music Fest featuring Stone Street Revival & Chris Canas Band
“Chris Canas is one of the best contemporary Blues guitarists out there and hails from the Detroit area. He’s won national competitions and will be a great opening act. Stone Street Revival is the new band featuring Donny Brown from The Verve Pipe, award-winning guitarist Scotty VanDell, guitarist Jeff Walikangas, and a 3-piece horn section consisting of John Anderson, John Rickert, and George Bork, among others.”
July 30 • Latin Fiesta featuring Karizma Band & Bad Boys
“Both of these bands specialize in Tejano and traditional Mexican Dance music.” Karizma originated in Holland, MI in 1981 as a conjunto band, a category of Tejano music that is known for its use of accordion, bajo sexto, bass and drum.
August 6 • Downtown Hoedown feat. Dillon Carmichael & Mandi Layne & the Lost Highway
Country Night is always one of Friday Night Live’s biggest draws, especially given the fact that over the decades they have brought such artists as Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, and Chris Young to town before they became the well-known entities they are today. Headliner Dillon Carmichael is out of Nashville and is signed to the Riser House label, for which he has released one single, "I Do for You". “We’ll also be presenting a Special Tribute to Veterans,” notes Jeanne, “so encourage all vets to come out for this special celebration.”
August 13 • Michigan Made featuring Lookin’ Back Bob Seger Tribute & The Blue OG’s
Back in 2009, Lookin’ Back climbed out of a basement in Commerce Township, MI to make its big debut, and eventually became America’s #1 Bob Seger tribute band 12 years later. Presently they are followed by over 7100 Facebook fans and have performed for more than 300,000 people at 172 festivals, public and private events, theaters, and clubs, amassed nearly 60,000 Facebook video views, and have sold out 77% (35 of 45) self-produced dinner concerts. Opening act The Blue OG’s were voted Best Blues Band at the 2020 REVIEW Music Awards.
August 20 • Motown Music Fest • Featuring Denise Davis & the Motor City Sensation & Detroit Social Club
“Both of these acts are out of Detroit and the cool thing about Denise Davis is that she covers the female side of Motown with artists like Gladys Knight and The Supremes,” reflects Nash. “The previous Motown groups we’ve featured have all covered the male side of the spectrum.”
“Even though we’ve been shut down for much of the past year, Positive Results in Downtown Saginaw have staged many successful events,” concludes Jeanne. “We featured Food trucks last summer and this year’s Memorial Day parade was very successful. We had almost 35 entries and featured the Saginaw High Drum Line. We also were allowed to do two skating events in February outdoors and were able to limit people going in and out of Hoyt Park.”
“With everything opening up again on July 1st, we still will have masks and hand sanitizer available for people to do what’s in their comfort zone, even though it’s not required; and we also would like to remind people that no bikes or dogs are allowed in the park and request they refrain from bringing big coolers.”
“When all is said and done, we are excited to be presenting what we feel is a great return to form for Friday Night Live and encourage everybody throughout the region to attend.”
9th February, 2024