The acts come and go, but the Springfield Arts Council’s Summer Arts Festival has been an area tradition for 50 years for a reason closer to home: the community.
It has become such a tradition that the phone calls for a new season start in the fall. Families plan vacations and the best times for out-of-town relatives and friends to visit around what acts and events are coming to Veterans Park and the Turner Pavilion.
“This festival exists because the community embraces it,” said Tim Rowe, the Arts Council’s managing artistic director. “They embrace it with their attendance, donations, sponsorships, word of mouth and continuous support and participation.”
The 2016 festival will be even more anticipated than usual with a mix of returning favorites, new acts and special events to commemorate a half-century’s worth of entertainment with 25 special nights beginning June 10 and winding up July 16.
“With this being our 50th, we will recognize the history and tradition, but also as it has always done, we’re looking to provide a great experience this summer and for the next 50 years,” Rowe said.
Another thing hasn’t changed since 1967. Despite inflation and increased prices, the admission remains the same: free.
“I know people who have put their chairs down on the lawn and some don’t even know what act is playing. That’s what makes us different from other venues,” Rowe said. “We’re proud of the quality of acts, but equally proud of the experience we provide, which is driven by the community.”
The acts cover a broad range aimed at a cross section of the community, according to Rowe.
Things will kick off in familiar style with festival regulars when rock and roll oldies favorite Phil Dirt and the Dozers performs on June 10.
The following night will feature pop singer Maureen McGovern and a special 50th anniversary celebration from 5-7:30 p.m. on the west terrace.
That event is for anyone who has performed, been on a committee, sponsors, board members or attendees. The celebration will include an open reception with complimentary punch and snacks.
Tribute bands are a festival hallmark with new and returning favorites. Newcomers include tributes to Fleetwood Mac (June 16), Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (June 30) and The Dave Matthews Band (July 2).
Rowe said the latter tribute is an example of festival organizers reaching out to potential audiences who may not normally come to the festival, and for regulars to discover something different.
Returning tributes include Journey (June 18; this act sold out at another area venue in 2015), Jimmy Buffett (June 25), ABBA (July 9) and The Eagles (July 6), which will feature a special salute to the late Eagles founding member Glenn Frey.
Community productions will include the Arts Council Youth Arts Ambassadors’ “Getting to Know…Once Upon a Mattress” on June 22-23. Hopefully the only umbrellas opening this season will be on stage with the stage version of “Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s ‘Mary Poppins,’” July 14-16 that winds up the season.
Lots of variety will be on display with the comedy of Capital Steps (June 17), gospel (June 19), jazz (June 24), big band (June 29) and Russian folk music and dancing (July 7).
The area will be well represented by Springfield-born singer-songwriter Griffin House, who will make his annual festival appearance on July 8. And with the longest-running act in festival history, The Springfield Symphony Orchestra, will play on June 12.
“The Symphony has been part of this since the very first festival,” Rowe said. “They are a community treasure and one of the foundations.”
Other attractions such as the pre-concert Live on the Terrace shows will also return this season. Performers will be announced at a later date.
Rowe, who first became involved in the festival in 1977, saw evidence of what will help sustain it into the future.
He recognized a man who was in community productions in the 1980s whose daughter is now involved with the Youth Arts Ambassadors’ productions, a kind of passing of the torch.
“That’s real community,” he said, smiling.
For more information on the Summer Arts Festival, go to www.springfieldartscouncil.org.
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