Blues and BBQ to open new De Soto park
When the De Soto Chamber of Commerce Blues and BBQ opens Riverfest Park Friday, the first performers to stride onto the new stage will be Larry Dean and the Stranger Creek Band.
“It’s quite an honor,” said band front man Larry Inman, De Soto. “I’ve looked it over a time or two. I think it’s going to be pretty nice. De Soto needs a little outdoor arena like that for concerts during the summer. I think it will be a good asset to the community.”
The $676,000 first phase of Riverfest Park was designed as an entertainment and festival venue.
The stage will be a busy place Friday and Saturday as musicians crank out the blues — and in the case of Inman’s band county-tinged blues — from 6 to 10 p.m. His band will have a freshly cut CD, “The Winner,” available at the show, featuring songs he and band member Gary Bichelmeyer wrote, Inman said.
The admission fee for Friday was set at $5 so that De Soto residents could enjoy an inexpensive introduction to the new park on West 79th Street, Ritter said.
She encouraged all those planning to attend Friday or Saturday to bring lawn chairs or blankets as there is not seating in the amphitheater in front of the stage.
She is also anticipating sizeable crowds, especially with the forecast for mild daytime highs in the 70s and lows in the high 50s both Friday and Saturday night. Ritter looks for about 1,000 people in attendance Friday night and at least twice that number Saturday.
“That’s a safe estimate, based on the number of calls we’ve been getting,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of interest from Lawrence.”
Attendance is expected to exceed the park’s parking capacity. Additional parking will be available Friday at the Community Center, 84th Street, and Starside Elementary School, 35400 West 91st St., and Saturday at the Community Center and Lexington Trails Middle School, 8800 Penner Ave. Shuttles carry music lovers to the park.
“Parking will be well marked, so people shouldn’t have any trouble finding them,” Ritter said.
Unfortunately, the park and festival’s first night will be at the same time as the De Soto High School Homecoming football game against Ottawa, Ritter said. The reason is the barbecue contest Darrel Zimmerman started in 2004 is scheduled a week after the American Royal, and part of its popularity is the opportunity it provides as the new competition year’s first contest for teams to start earning points toward qualifying for the 2009 American Royal.
While Ritter said she hoped those attending the ballgame would stop by the new park first, she anticipated much of the opening night will be friends and family of the barbecue teams competing in the Cookin’ on the Kaw BBQ contest.
Inman’s band will be followed by folk singer Ann Zimmerman, a Kansas folk singer and recording artist with a national reputation.
“I know she is quite good,” Inman said. “It’s a honor to perform with her.”
Zimmerman performs some blues but she is a versatile performer who plays Celtic, bluegrass and folk tunes. Friday’s two late acts will be straight ahead blues. Dan Bliss, a former sideman for Saturday’s feature Kelley Hunt, will perform a 8 p.m. and the De Soto band, Dan Bliss and Bluzville, will wrap up the evening.
Ritter said the admission fee for Friday was set at $5 so that De Soto residents could enjoy an inexpensive introduction to the new park. Tickets are $10 on Saturday.
In addition to the music and the pleasing smell of barbecue teams cooking for the next day’s contest, those attend Friday will can purchase food from any of the six vendors — JTs Grill and Sports Bar, the Bleu Tomato, local Cub Scout troop, Mr. Goodcents — which also made a $7,000 donation to sponsor the event — Pizza Hut, and John Khoury with Angie’s Italian Ice and Frozen Custard. The vendors will return Saturday.
In addition, a beer garden will be open at the park all weekend.
Gates to the park will open at 3:30 p.m. Saturday with music set to start at 4 p.m.
Leading the evening’s entertainment will be blues soloist John Paul Drum. He will be followed by the big-band blues swing of the Grand Marquis.
Saturday’s feature act will be Lawrence blues recording artist Kelley Hunt.
Saturday night will conclude with a fireworks show to celebrate Riverfest Park’s opening.
The park was freshly mowed last week and city park department workers painted a wall and cleaned up around an old sand plant structure to the west, City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle said.
It is the goal of city officials that Riverfest Park will become attract events that will draw people to De Soto and help local businesses. Guilfoyle said word seemed to be getting around as representatives from one popular metropolitan area ethnic celebration have inquired about its availability for 2010.
“I told them that’s exactly why we built it,” he said.