Springfield Summer Arts Festival: 58th season offers rock, laughs and more

With the past week bringing the weather of all four seasons, it was sometimes easy to lose track of which season it is. A sure sign of summer is coming – the Springfield Arts Council’s (SAC) Summer Arts Festival.

Th 58th version has a slate of country music, tribute acts, local talent, family programs and a few surprises starting June 7 and running through July 13 in Veterans Park, 250 Cliff Park Road.

Admission will stay at 1967 prices: free.

One of the country’s longest-running consecutive no-admission festivals of its type, it continues to evolve while continuing what draws people of all ages. Programming the festival is like a balancing act worthy of a circus for SAC executive director Tim Rowe and associate creative director Krissy Brown, bringing in the acts in several genres a diverse audience may enjoy, finding dates artists have open and staying within a budget that allows it to remain admission-free.

“I think we’re really trying to listen to the feedback. We’ve gotten some of the favorites back, we were asked for more country acts, more local and an emphasis on family shows,” Brown said.

The series will lead off with a favorite who has played nearly each summer the past 20 years, Springfield’s own singer/songwriter Griffin House on June 7.

“Griffin is sort of what this festival is, a local guy who has done well and who people love to see each year,” said Rowe.

An adult Broadway in the Park show is back after a year’s absence with a local twist, Dan Hunt’s original musical comedy “The Last Pirates of the Vast Golden Treasure.” It premiered in 2018, and Hunt will direct and has added some twists and turns and a new ending.

Rowe said one of the fun aspects of the original production was families bringing their kids dressed in pirate costumes and they could plan a theme around it.

Allison Road, which was voted as the top band in the 2022 Best of Springfield competition, will make its festival debut, combining genres including country, classic rock, pop and original music. Another fresh approach will see two local arts organizations, the Ohio Performing Arts Institute and the Gary Geis School of Dance, combine for the first time for the original program “Moving with the Ladies of Song.”

“We wanted to embrace community and having two of the big dance studios with a female empowerment theme was a great way to do that,” said Brown.

Rounding out the local acts is the group with the distinction of playing in each festival, the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

One of the frequent requests SAC staff heard was for more country music. They responded with a tribute called Honky Tonk Chicks, three Broadway-trained women who sing everything country from Elvis to Shania Twain to Dolly Parton and use local musicians to back them.

Another new tribute to classic country was added with Boys in the Band – The Alabama Tribute. Allison Road also has a strong country emphasis.

An act Rowe said will be a sleeper that people may be surprised by is Next Generation Leahy. Just don’t let the name fool you.

The group is a second-generation Celtic dance and music act from a family that played here around 20 years ago. Rowe and Brown were blown away by their performance at a showcase event and think that will transfer well to the Veterans Park Amphitheater.

Tribute acts are the festival’s backbone and 2024 will feature new and popular returnees. One of the most anticipated and among the best-attended annually is Resurrection – The Journey Tribute, which is back June 15. Other popular returnees include tributes to Elton John, ELO, Jimmy Buffet and Huey Lewis and the News.

A noteworthy newcomer is Big Bam Boom – A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates.

Family emphasis will include the return of KidsFest to Veterans Park with a show by the Youth Arts Ambassadors and other new twists on June 16. Disney tribute The Little Mermen and a Family Fun Night with ventriloquist Lynn Trefzger and The Amazing Giants will also attract a wide age range.

Original acts include McGuffey Lane’s 50th anniversary tour with three original members and Jim Donovan and the Sun King Warriors, an Americana groove rock band led by Donovan, who was in popular ‘90s band Rusted Root.

Expect some shows to be complemented by special attractions such as the Parrothead Party in the Park, Sip of Summer and others to be announced later on.

Rowe said the festival’s the usual rules will apply again including a 6 a.m. chair setup, pass-the-hat intermission collections to support future festivals and availability of special seating. Parking will also remain free.

“It’s not so much who the act is. It’s about the community getting together in one spot for a shared entertainment experience,” he said.

For more details about the festival, go to www.springfieldartscouncil.org/.

2024 Schedule

(All shows at 8 p.m. unless noted)

Friday, June 7, Griffin House

Saturday, June 8, Parrots of the Caribbean

Wednesday, June 12-Friday, June 14, The Last Pirates of the Vast Golden Treasure (Broadway in the Park)

Saturday, June 15, Resurrection – The Journey Tribute

Sunday, June 16, KidsFest, noon to 4 p.m. in Veterans Park

Wednesday, June 19, Family Fun Night with ventriloquist Lynn Trefzger and The Amazing Giants

Thursday, June 20, Allison Road

Friday, June 21, Next Generation Leahy

Saturday, June 22, The Honky Tonk Chicks

Sunday, June 23, McGuffey Lane 50th Anniversary Tour

Wednesday, June 26, The Motor City Revue

Thursday, June 27, The Little Mermen

Friday, June 28, Brass Tracks Band

Saturday, June 29, Heart of Rock & Roll – Tribute to Huey Lewis and the News

Sunday, June 30, Big Bam Boom – A Daryl Hall and John Oates Tribute

Friday, July 5, “Moving with the Ladies of Song” with the Ohio Performing Arts Institute and Gary Geis School of Dance

Saturday, July 6, Elton Rohn: North America’s Premier Elton John Tribute

Sunday, July 7, Springfield Symphony Orchestra

Wednesday, July 10, Turn to Stone: The Tribute to ELO

Thursday, July 11, Rusted Roots’ Jim Donovan and The Sun King Warriors

Friday, July 12, Phil Dirt and the Dozers

Saturday, July 13, Boys in the Band – The Alabama Tribute

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