July is the month you can mix Phil Dirt with bluegrass, a Symphony, acapella, jazz and soul, parrots and puppets and you’ll have the entertainment lineup for the Springfield Arts Council’s 2021 Summer Arts Festival.
Coming off the first cancellation year in its history due to the pandemic, the admission-free festival will present 18 evenings of entertainment beginning July 1 and ending July 24 in Veterans Park.
While this 55th festival will have differences from the past, including safety guidelines in place and a smaller schedule, Arts Council executive director Tim Rowe is hopeful patrons will be eager to enjoy arts-filled summer evenings again.
“The Arts Council misses these shows as much as anyone. We want to provide a safe and fun time in the park,” Rowe said.
Some of this season’s acts were set for the 2020 festival before its cancellation including the leadoff act, The K-Tel All-Stars on July 1. This is a tribute to the groovy songs of the 1970s inspired by the old K-Tel compilation albums that combined hits of the day in LP format, some by well-known artists, some by one-hit wonders.
Another newcomer is The Sly Band, which will bring the party energy with everything from classics by James Brown and Whitney Houston to modern hits from Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars. Rowe said get ready to dance at this one.
As tribute acts to beloved artists are a consistently popular festival draw, The PettyBreakers Tribute to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers that got an enthusiastic response here in 2018, will be back. Another returning favorite that brings out the party spirit is Jimmy Buffet tribute Parrots of the Caribbean.
The festival has always emphasized local entertainers. Singer-songwriter Griffin House, who has performed here nearly 15 times, will play his traditional first Friday of the festival slot July 2.
“Griffin is one of those hometown guys who did good. He’s one of those guys everybody knows or went to school with and they love him in the park,” Rowe said.
The Springfield Symphony Orchestra is the festival’s longest-running act, playing each year since the beginning, and will perform a half string and percussion show followed by the recently formed jazz orchestra. Another with local ties will be Soul Legends with singer Tia Seay and Mother’s Jazz Collective, local musicians who often perform at Mother Stewart’s Brewing Company.
A festival fixture each year is the Youth Arts Ambassadors. While their normal festival shows involve numerous youths and adults, this year’s safety conditions presented a challenge and they found the perfect fit with “Godspell, Jr. The Musical,” which has a cast of 12.
One missing festival mainstay is an adult musical. Several factors prevented this including concerns about safely having 50 or more performers rehearse together, and the rights to a musical needing to be obtained six months in advance, too far out for Rowe to commit to back in January, but he says a musical will return in 2022.
A replacement of sorts is the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
“It has been a long time since we’ve done Shakespeare in the park, which we used to do a lot,” said Rowe. “This is an opportunity to reintroduce these types of performances.”
Shows families can enjoy include the acrobatic thrills of Cirque-Tacular and ventriloquist Lynn Trefzger and the Madcap Puppets.
The season ends with a familiar favorite that has opened the series and played 35-40 times, oldies rockers Phil Dirt and the Dozers. While Rowe was sometimes challenged getting artists, the Dozers reached out to him although they are doing many fewer venues but Springfield is one of their favorites.
Other added theme attractions such as Sip of Summer may be added to the schedule, according to Rowe.
“We are counting on people to support us this summer and enjoy some great live music and together we’ll make this happen,” Rowe said.
For updates on the festival, including health and safety regulations, go to the Arts Council’s webpage or social media pages.
2021 Summer Arts Festival Schedule
(All shows at 8 p.m.)
Thursday, July 1 – The K-Tel All-Stars
Friday, July 2 – Griffin House
Saturday, July 3 – Parrots of the Caribbean
Tuesday, July 6 and Wednesday, July 7 – Youth Arts Ambassadors present “Godspell Jr. The Musical”
Thursday, July 8 – The PettyBreakers, Tribute to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Friday, July 9 – Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers
Saturday, July 10 – Soul Legends with Tia Seay and Mother’s Collective
Sunday, July 11 – Springfield Symphony Orchestra
Wednesday, July 14 – Fourth Avenue acapella vocal band
Thursday, July 15 – Cincinnati Shakespeare Company presents “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Friday, July 16 – The Urban Jazz Coalition
Saturday, July 17 – Brass Tracks Band
Sunday, July 18 – Nehemiah Foundation presents “When Springfield Sings”
Wednesday, July 21 – Cirque-Tacular!
Thursday, July 22 – The Sly Band
Friday, July 23 – Ventriloquist Lynn Trefzger with special guests Madcap Puppets
Saturday, July 24 – Phil Dirt and the Dozers
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