Summer Arts Festival boasts free entertainment while boosting local involvement, tourism

A Springfield summer tradition is back in full swing after taking pause in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic – and crowds at Veterans Park couldn’t be happier.

The Springfield Arts Council’s 55th annual Summer Arts Festival (SAF) kicked off on July 1 and will continue featuring free entertainment through July 24.

“The biggest highlight about saying it’s our 55th year of having the festival is that this event has survived all of this time having free admission and entertainment at the park,” says Greg Rogers, president of the Springfield Arts Council Board. “Really, it’s a testament to how hard to Springfield Arts Council staff and board and supporters all care about the mission.

“And, it shows how everyone works really hard to make sure the Arts Council and the Summer Arts Festival is here many more years in Springfield.”

Rogers emphasized the importance of not only providing entertainment, but providing the whole festival free of cost and open to the public.

“You can go to other venues and see the same acts for a cost,” he says. “Our mission through the Springfield Arts Council is to bring performing arts to all people in our community throughout Springfield and Clark County. Providing free admission fulfills our mission by making shows available for anyone without limiting access.”

It takes a lot of effort behind the scenes to make the SAF successful for almost every night of a full month each year. But it’s well worth it, Rogers says.

The festival events are completely community-funded through sponsorships, business donations, individual donations, and fundraisers, such as the upcoming Golf Scramble.

And, in addition to the 10 to 20 paid staff members at the park each night, there are up to 40 volunteers helping to ensure to shows, concession stands, set-up and tear down run smoothly, he says.

He says specialty sponsors who provide giveaways during some shows and local businesses and organizations that volunteers to Pass the Hat – collecting cash donations from audience members during intermission – are important pieces of putting the SAF together.

“Whether people donated $0.50 or $20, it all goes a long way, and it all goes straight to our mission of making admission free every year," Rogers says.

The festival offers a wide variety of entertainment options with something for everyone to enjoy, including tribute bands, the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, a theater performance by the Youth Arts Ambassadors, acrobatics, a Shakespeare performance, Springfield’s own Griffin House, and local favorites Phil Dirt and the Dozers.

This past weekend included a special themed night – the Parrothead Party in the Park. The Jimmy-Buffet-styled event included super-sized balloon palm trees created by Balloon Dog Events, limited edition Parrothead Party T-shirts, and burritos, margaritas and specialty beers, courtesy of Los Mariachis, Mother Stewart’s Brewing Company, and Heidelberg Distributing Company.  

Jimmy Buffet tribute band parrots of the Caribbean performed on stage for the crowd, which included a sea of Hawaiian shirts and tie dye.

The music stopped at 10 p.m., just in time for the Downtown July 4 fireworks celebration – Buck Creek Boom – to kick-off. The display launched close enough to the park that concert-goers were able to enjoy the fireworks immediately after the concert.

Rogers says the SAF is just one more way to attract people to the city so they can enjoy the many things Springfield has to offer.

“I can’t imagine a better showcase night for Springfield than this past Saturday,” Rogers says. “You could stay at the (Courtyard by) Marriott, grab dinner at COhatch or Stella Bleu, visit the rooftop of the parking garage for the fireworks party, stop by Mother Stewart’s just a block away, and head just two more blocks to Veterans Park to hear some beach-themed music. And, you could enjoy the fireworks right overhead and right Downtown.”

Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.

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