EDITORIAL: Encore! Stirring memories of years past, Rock the Park is back
Those of us who have been around a half-century or more remember the days of street dances.
Once or twice a summer, in decades that started with the number 1, there were times when an Ely avenue would be closed off for a few hours on a weekend night and a stage set up, and hundreds would congregate downtown.
It’s a tradition that for whatever reason died off in town for the better part of two decades, although in some neighboring Range towns the street dance still lives on.
A couple or so years ago, it was current State Rep. Roger Skraba, who was then seeking a return to his old job as mayor, that raised the question of bringing back street dances to down.
The idea took root and evolved a bit, and a dedicated group of individuals set out to make the idea of a town concert a reality.
And Rock the Park was born.
Rather than use a downtown avenue, the group opted to utilize the gem smack dab in the middle of town - the beautiful and spacious Whiteside Park - for an event that kicked off the Fourth of July weekend last summer.
To say it was a hit would be putting things mildly.
People came out in droves, several hundred of them at least.
There were music-lovers and people who came to dance.
There were adults there for a night out and teens who knew Whiteside was the place to be.
There were senior citizens with their lawnchairs taking it all in and young families, with mom and dad and elementary and pre-school aged children staying close to the playground equipment.
There were lifelong Elyites, those more recent to the area and throngs of former Elyites just home for the Fourth of July.
More than one Ely native rightly called the event a mini-class reunion and over the course of several hours as daylight turned to nightfall that’s exactly what it was.
There was no doubt there had to be an encore, and the fledgling Ely Events Committee went back to work and came up with one.
The second Rock the Park will look much like the first.
Organizers decided not to mess with what worked and they’ve put together a concert that mimics the 2022 event - even bringing back the same musical acts.
Steve Ernster and The Northwood’s Band were hits last year and their sounds appeal to a cross-section of audiences and genres.
If you missed last year’s event, be sure to check out this one, with Ernster on stage from 5 until 7 p.m. and the Northwood’s Band following and playing until 11.
There will be plenty of food trucks and great fare to sample and Ely’s firefighters will again be serving up beverages.
Stop for an hour and you might stay until the wee hours, enjoying the music and sense of community the event brings - just as those street dances did so many years ago.