Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Blues legend Johnny Winter will be appearing in Springfield later this summer.

A popular whine is there is nothing to do in downtown Springfield. Well, the Business Improvement District is trying to boost the local tourism population downtown with a variety of activities, including a Dine Around that is taking place Thursday night.

I hope people will give these events a chance. Certainly the Stearns Square concerts are a huge success on Thursday nights and the BID is smart to try to capture other folks with music on other days.

I still think downtown needs some sort of movie theater, preferably an art house/first run combo. And there also needs to be a good traditional coffee shop with books and magazines for sale and music and spoken word events.

The Web site has more details.

Downtown Springfield will be the area's headquarters for free live music this summer with the Springfield Business Improvement District (BID) offering up not only the hugely popular Stearns Square CityBlock concerts on Thursday nights, but also a series of jazz concerts on Sundays, live music at the Farmers Market on Wednesdays and more music on Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. in a series of performances called "Happy House @ The Market Place."

BID Executive Director Jeff Keck explained the purpose of the concerts is to introduce people to the city's downtown neighborhood with the hopes of filling existing real estate vacancies.

The music will begin on Wednesdays when there will be free concerts during the Wednesday farmers markets conducted from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Keck said the market has doubled in size with the inclusion of more area farmers and crafters.

The performers include the Jimmy Mazz Band, Sweet Daddy Cool Breeze, Badmonkey, Alibi, Janet Ryan and Straight Up, the Inside Job, Time Trippers, Red Haired Strangers, the Floyd Patterson Band, Dan Daniels & Your No Good Buddies, and Gene Donaldson & the Stingrays.

These same bands will then perform from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Marketplace near Hampden Bank.

Second Sundays @ Stearns will be presented from 2 to 5 p.m. in the Stearns Square Park. A number of restaurants will be open during those hours with Cafe Manhattan featuring a special brunch. The performances will be presented rain or shine.

The jazz concerts started June 8 with Bob Baldwin with Friends featuring Ragan Whiteside. They will continue on July 13 with Gordon James with special guest Ethel Lee and on Aug. 10, Urban Jazz Coaltion with special guest Scott Sasenecki featuring Radam Schwartz and conclude Sept. 14 with Ken Navarro and special guest Nu Direxions.

The Thursday night CityBlock concerts will feature an eclectic blend of veteran rock acts, blues bands and up-and-coming performers: June 26, Jay and the Americans; July 3, Gary U.S. Bonds; July 10, the Blues Magoos; July 17, JGB featuring Melvin Seals; July 24, Pure Prairie League; July 31, FAT; Aug. 7, L.A. Guns; Aug. 14, the Georgia Satellites; Aug. 21, Roomful of Blues; Aug. 28, Black 47; Sept. 4, Johnny Winter; and on Sept. 11, The Last Goodnight.

Food rather than music will be the emphasis of a new event sponsored by the BID, the Downtown Dine Around. Keck explained the June 19 event is an off-shoot of the BID's popular mobile wine-tastings. With Dine Around three groups of diners will visit one of three groups of restaurants all within walking distance of each other.

The groups of diners will spend about 45 minutes at each restaurant sampling the menu and having a drink. The evening will cost $35 per person and will be limited to about 50 diners. The participating eateries include the Sitar, the Fort, Shakago's, 350 Grill, Virtuoso, Caf Manhattan, Montenia's, McCaffrey's and Cafe Lebanon.

Keck explained he wanted to demonstrate to people the streets are safe. If the event proves to be popular he envisions it taking place several times a year.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

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