One of the joys of summer is getting out your lawn chairs or blankets and heading to a local park with the family. For five weeks every summer, residents of Springfield, Ohio, who venture to the park can find a variety of music and entertainment there. From pop to jazz to theater, local performers and nationally known acts bring summertime joy to thousands of area families. And the best part? It's all free.
Springfield's Summer Arts Festival is a better bargain than ever this summer as economically stretched families look for things to do. Sponsored by the Springfield Arts Council, the event is beginning its 44th season at Veteran's Park Amphitheater, just minutes from downtown Springfield. There is no fixed seating, except for a small set of bleachers on the south side of Cliff Park Road, so concertgoers bring chairs or blankets and sit on the hillside that forms a natural tiered setting for listening to performers on the stage located at the bottom of the hill.
In 2004, the popularity of the Festival led to the completion of restrooms, concession stands, and a hospitality terrace. The following year, a new stage with a lighting canopy was added, along with asphalt paths, a concrete pad for reserved seating up front, a building for production control, and handicapped seating pads throughout the Grand Lawn area.
Food and beverages are available at reasonable prices but many attendees bring along their own pop and snacks. Limited reserved seating in the orchestra "pit" is available for $10 but you still supply your own chair or purchase a "rent-a-chair" seat for $5. Parking is free too, but the regulars know to go early to grab good places for both the car and their chairs. No one ever seems to mind when Arts Council members pass the hat at intermission because the Festival is such an incredible value.
Starting off the 2010 Festival on June 17, 18, and 19 is the family musical Annie, presented by the Ohio Lyric Theatre and the Springfield Arts Council. Guitarist Ernie Hawkins will take the stage on June 20. On June 22, the United States Air Force Band of Flight's New Harmony will perform. The group is stationed at nearby Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Fairborn, Ohio, just northeast of Dayton.
Other acts in the five-week Festival that show the diversity of the offerings include the Golden Dragon Acrobats, Neal E. Boyd (from America's Got Talent), the Celtic band Cherish the Ladies, bluegrass music from The Muleskinner Band, and the well-known jazz group Spyro Gyro. Several tribute bands will appear including Parrots of the Caribbean (performing the music of Jimmy Buffet), Hotel California (performing the music of The Eagles), The Dark Star Orchestra (performing the music of the Grateful Dead), and Evil Ways (performing the music of Santana). Light classical music is also on the bill with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, the United States Army Field Band and Chorus, and the Gem City Sweet Adelines.
Food on the terrace will be coordinated with the music on certain weekends including an Irish and Spirits Fest and a Rhythm and Ribs Fest. On Saturday, June 26, Kidsfest is a full day of children's theater and other activities.
In addition to educational programs in the schools, the Springfield Arts Council has a winter concert series called "Broadway and Beyond" that brings in touring musicals and well-known singers.
Summer Arts Festival brochure