Summer Arts Festival to begin next half century

The season will begin Friday, June 9 with Springfield-born singer/songwriter Griffin House. CONTRIBUTED

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The season will begin Friday, June 9 with Springfield-born singer/songwriter Griffin House. CONTRIBUTED

It seems like only yesterday the Springfield Arts Council was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Summer Arts Festival. Actually, it was last summer.

But now the Arts Council is focused on creating new memories. The Summer Arts Festival returns this summer for its 51st year with six weeks of a variety of entertainment.

A mix of traditional acts, returning favorites, local talent and new additions will reach the Turner Pavilion stage starting Friday, June 9 and finishing Saturday, July 15.

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“In the 50 year-history of the festival we’ve shown we’re adaptable. It’s taken many forms but the thing is it always needs a variety and I’m proud to say in our 51st year we’re eclectic,” said Tim Rowe, Arts Council Executive Director. “As my board has assured us it’s as much about the experience as showing many music styles.”

Expect some shuffling this time out.

For example, the season will begin Friday, June 9 with Springfield-born singer/songwriter Griffin House. While a tradition at the festival, House has always performed in July in recent years.

A few other returning acts and festival attractions will also be in different slots.

The two best-attended 2016 performances were Resurrection – A Journey Tribute and Let’s Hang On – A Tribute to The Four Seasons. Those two acts will return as will another repeat favorite, Brass Transit – Musical Legacy of Chicago.

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“We listen when people say ‘You’ve got to have these guys back again’ or send us emails,” Rowe said.

Rowe and the festival organizers have to go through a process with the 10 board members, and gauge the cost of presenting certain acts and their availability, considering there are other venues out there competing, but who also charge admission.

Rowe is enthused about two new tribute acts depicting some of the biggest names in pop music history. The McCartney Years – The Premiere McCartney Concert Experience will perform the music of the former Beatle and The Purple Xperience will bring the late Prince’s legacy alive.

New additions with several original members include The Squirrel Nut Zippers, a fusion of blues, jazz, swing and other styles or as Rowe describes it “what punk music would have sounded like in the 1920s and ‘30s.” Closing out the festival on Saturday, July 15 is Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, a horn-heavy swing revival band.

Another different act will be Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers and The BoxCars, which will bring bluegrass.

Local talent will be represented by the return of the Gary Geis Dance Company to the festival after several years’ absence, and rockers Animal Grace and The Temps along with several mainstays.

Musicals will include the Youth Arts Ambassadors’ production of “Annie, Jr.” and the Broadway musical “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” to be directed by Rowe with former Arts Council Executive Director Chris Moore as music director.

There will even be a bonus act on June 27, one which Rowe was unable to share but assures will be a festival favorite. It will be announced later in the spring.

Also returning will be the showcase for local performers prior to the main stage shows, Live on the Terrace. Those acts will also be announced at a later date.

While the price of things always goes up, this festival is still admission-free.

The festival costs roughly $450,000 to produce. Rowe said the pass the hat fundraising target is $60,000.

“With donor help, the festival is sustainable. We absolutely could not do this without our local sponsors, many who have been with us for decades,” he said.

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2017 Schedule (Times to be announced at a later date)

Week 1

Friday, June 9, Griffin House

Saturday, June 10, Resurrection – A Journey Tribute

Sunday, June 11, Springfield Symphony Orchestra

Week 2

Wednesday, June 14 and Thursday, June 15, Youth Arts Ambassadors’ “Annie, Jr.”

Friday, June 16 and Saturday, June 17, Sip of Summer Beer and Wine Fest

Friday, June 16, Brass Transit – Musical Legacy of Chicago

Saturday, June 17, The Urban Jazz Coalition

Week 3

Thursday, June 22-Saturday, June 24, “Monty Python’s Spamalot”

Sunday, June 25, When Springfield Sings! – Nehemiah Foundation’s Community Pride and Worship Celebration

Week 4

Tuesday, June 27, TBA

Wednesday, June 28, The Gary Geis Dance Studio

Thursday, June 29, Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers and The BoxCars

Friday, June 30, Phil Dirt and the Dozers

Saturday, July 1, Animal Grace and The Temps

Week 5

Wednesday, July 5 – Big Band Legends – The Tom Daugherty Orchestra

Thursday, July 6, The McCartney Years – The Premier McCartney Concert Experience

Friday, July 7, Parrothead Party in the Park

Friday, July 7 – Parrots of the Caribbean

Saturday, July 8, The Purple Xperience: The Nation’s Most Authentic Prince Tribute

Sunday, July 9, KidsFest, noon to 4 p.m. at the Springfield Museum of Art

Sunday, July 9, Gospel Music Workshop of America featuring Hayden Jackson

Week 6

Wednesday, July 12, The Squirrel Nut Zippers

Thursday, July 13-Saturday, July 15, BBQ and Beer Blast

Thursday, July 13, Let’s Hang On – A Tribute to The Four Seasons

Friday, July 14, Masters of Soul

Saturday, July 15, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

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