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Summer at Lock 3 featuring new events, old favorites

5/19/2011 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Summer at Lock 3 Park in Downtown Akron officially begins May 27 as the season of music, food and festivals arrives.
Bobbing for Burgers had these contestants covered in ketchup at last year’s National Hamburger Festival.
Photos: Bruce Ford, courtesy of the city of Akron
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Summer at Lock 3 Park officially begins May 27 as the season of music, food and festivals arrives.

City of Akron officials announced the Downtown Akron park will host dozens of events, many of them free, during the next few months, including some new offerings such as an Irish Heritage Festival.

Thanks to the support of stage sponsor Akron General Medical Center and funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the outdoor amphitheater will be buzzing with the sounds of music from tribute bands, national artists and international performers, according to Deputy Mayor David Lieberth.

“When the recession hit in early 2008, a lot of people asked if we were cutting back,” Lieberth said. “But we’ve been able to maintain our Lock 3 schedule, the ballet and concerts in the parks with very little cutbacks noticeable to people.”

Lieberth said last year 200,000 people visited Lock 3 for concerts or festivals. This season is the ninth for the site, located adjacent to the Akron Civic Theatre.

While activities such as charity walks and other community events have been taking place at Lock 3 this spring, the concert season officially starts May 27, when the Rock the Lock series of free Friday night concerts begins with a performance from Rumours: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac. Tribute acts will perform the music of artists such as the WHO, Billy Joel, Neil Young, Bon Jovi and Led Zeppelin during the course of the summer. Also scheduled to perform as opening acts are some local original acts, such as Waterband and The Speedbumps.

For Rock the Lock, gates will open at 6 p.m., with opening acts playing at 7 and headliners at 8:30.

Last year, the city also began offering free concerts on some Saturday nights at Lock 3, a formula Lieberth said proved successful.

“We stopped booking national acts on Saturday nights for the most part,” he said. “The costs were very high. If it rained, we lost a lot of money. We reduced the budget by getting really great tribute acts.”

Saturday audiences will get to hear the music of artists such as ABBA (July 30) and Johnny Cash (Aug. 13) provided by tribute artists.

There will be a few paid admission events on Saturdays. Old School Soul, featuring ZAPP and D-Funk All Stars, will take place June 25, while the Rock and Roll Heaven World Tour, An American Tribute to Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly, will take place Aug. 27. Tickets cost $5.

A new event for downtown but not the area is Blues & Brews, a craft beer event previously held at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens in West Akron. This year, the one-day event will take place at Lock 3 Aug. 6. There will be an admission fee for the event, which will lead into a Saturday night free concert featuring a tribute to the music of the band Chicago.

A totally new event this year is the Irish Heritage Festival, which will take place halfway to St. Patrick’s Day on the weekend of Sept. 16-17. The event, coordinated by Akron’s two Hibernian organizations, will provide a weekend of Irish music, food and dancing.

Returning events include the Rib, White and Blue Festival, July 1-4, which is the largest rib festival in the nation over the Independence Day holiday, according to city officials. And unlike other rib festivals, admission is free, Lieberth said.

The rib festival also will feature 10 vendors, the highest number ever, Lieberth said.

The festival will feature rock music July 1-3 and the Akron Symphony Orchestra July 4, with a fireworks show planned. The city is still seeking a sponsor for the fireworks, Lieberth added.

Also returning this year is the Italian American Societies Festival, July 8-10. This is the third year the event will take place at Lock 3. A new addition to the event is a 5K run that will take place downtown.

The Sixth Annual National Hamburger Festival is also scheduled but has been moved to Aug. 20-21 after taking place in July in previous years.

“There is a point at which after people come to rib fest and Italian fest, they want a break,” Lieberth said. “That’s what we were hearing. So we asked Drew Cerza, the promoter, to move it and he was willing to do that.”

The festival also will include a new event this year, a Classic Car Race and Car Show. Antique vehicles from three Northeast Ohio car museums will be featured, including a 1900 Packard, Lieberth said.

This summer’s Smooth Jazz concert will still take place but move indoors to the Akron Civic Theatre. Patrice Rushen and Ndugu Chancler will open for Roy Ayers at the Aug. 20 show. Tickets range in price from $12 to $27.

Also returning to Lock 3 is the Akron African American Festival. The free event has been held in Akron for many years but last year moved to Lock 3 and attracted about 8,000 people with food, art, performances and vendors. This year it will take place July 24.

Sept. 3 will see the return of the Hip Hop Showcase, an event expected to bring several national performers to the Lock 3 stage. Admission to the showcase is $10.

The complete schedule of events is available at www.lock3live.com.

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