Free bandstand shows survive the belt-tightening
By Peter Bothum | The News Journal
The economy is so darn bad, even the free things are being cut back -- and almost cut out completely.
Rehoboth Beach Bandstand has cut its shows from four per week to three, and Lewes came a little too close to not having any shows at all on the lawn at its Public Library.
But a glass-half-full attitude is that, hey, these excellent shows are still going on, and they're still free.
In fact four downstate towns -- Rehoboth, Lewes, Bethany and Milton -- will continue to offer free shows.
"I just think that the local concerts are going to do pretty well this year in terms of audience," said Jon Woodyard, the concerts coordinator for Lewes' parks and recreation commission. "This is the year to do it. People are a little tight on money."
Bethany will continue to serve up shows at its bandstand at Garfield Park and the boardwalk.
Milton has concerts in Memorial Park every Wednesday at 7. The town has yet to release its summer lineup.
In Lewes, Woodyard was looking at his budget right down to the wire when the concert series sponsor, WSFS, came through yet again and made the season possible.
"I'll tell you what, I didn't think I would get off the ground," Woodyard said. "Without WSFS, we wouldn't have had a concert series this year. It was kind of touch and go."
In Rehoboth, a revenue crunch has caused bandstand concert organizers to trim back despite the fact that they poured $31 million into renovations three years ago.
The Delaware Comedy Theatre will fill some of the vacant slots on Thursdays in July and August with family comedy shows, and there will still be films shown at the bandstand on some nights when there will be no performers.
And in addition to getting something free, audiences will get something new: 17 of the 35 acts playing the bandstand this year are new additions, said Corey Groll, the bandstand's director. Among them are: The Generations, a big band playing June 28; Jimmy Buffet tribute act The Key West Band on July 17; and '80s cover band The Real Geniuses on Aug. 2.
"We really only cut back 10 shows," Groll said.
Pre-eminent Delaware cover band Love Seed Momma Jump opens up the band schedule on June 19. The band, though in heavy demand, wasn't hard to land. They have families of their own, and a free outdoor show is the only time their kids get to see them play.
Other highlights include an Aug. 23 performance by a special ensemble put together by the Delaware Symphony Orchestra; a set of dance tunes on July 18 by cover band Contagious; and a July 4 show by the U.S. Navy's Country Current, a country-bluegrass group, before the fireworks.
Tribute acts are starting to take up a chunk of the schedule these days mostly because audiences love them, Groll said.
Joining the Buffett tribute as a new addition is Liverpool Beat, a Beatles tribute playing on July 31, and Oh Boy, a Buddy Holly Tribute, which hits the stage on Aug. 9. Jesse Garron returns to the bandstand with his homage to Elvis on July 3.
Woodyard highlighted two new acts that he's personally excited to hear -- Creole/Cajun act Zydeco A-Go-Go on Aug. 4 and Dirty Kitchen, a bluegrass act led by former Country Current member Frank Solovna, on Aug. 25.
Woodyard said Lewes brought in about 7,000 people last year, which he said was "pretty good for a little town." Only about 20 percent of the people come from outside the Lewes ZIP code, he said.