Central City officials wanted the first, formal concert series held in Lu-Ray Park and Amphitheater to appeal to a wide audience, which is why executive director Melissa Recke said this season includes a variety of musical acts, the first of which will kick off June 1.
The city broke ground on the 5,000-seat amphitheater March 2016, after years of fundraising brought them to their construction goal of $1.5 million, the cost of the facility. It has a walking trail that surrounds the grassy seating area, a pavilion housed with electricity and water, and along the edge of the walking trail there are electrical boxes already in place to better accommodate vendors during certain events.
Mirroring the design of the Lu Ray Hotel -- which once stood in the location of the amphitheater -- the front facade has arches in it reminiscent of the historical building. There are green rooms off of each side of the stage, and there is a concession area behind it. There is also a veterans memorial on the property with footstones inscribed with the the names of local veterans.
Central City had a soft opening for the park and amphitheater last year, but this year they wanted something big.
The concert series opens in conjunction with the city's Rods & Ribs Festival that includes barbecue competitions and other food vendors. On Saturday, June 1, the amphitheater opens 2 p.m. with concerts beginning at 5 p.m. Andy Brasher Band will open, followed by Travis Meadows, and Chris Knight performing the finale.
The entire event is free.
Following that will be the June 22 performance of 1964, the Tribute, one of the leading Beatles tribute bands in the world. That concert begins at 7 p.m.
The Air Force Band will perform a free event June 27, which starts at 7 p.m.
Then on July 13, John Prine will return to Muhlenberg County with a performance dubbed John Prine: A Night in Paradise.
Recke said when John Prine performed in Beaver Dam last year and made the comment that this was the closest he would get to Paradise. The city wanted to change that.
"That's what started getting our wheels going that if we can make this happen, we need to make this happen," she said.
Booking Prine was big for the city, and Recke said all the hotels in the county have been booked for at least three months.
Another announcement of an upcoming group that is expected to appeal to younger audiences is scheduled to perform Aug. 10, and following that will be the Aug. 24 Dylan Scott and Teddy Robb show, who will perform country.
Rounding out the season will be the Sept. 14 Vanilla Ice with Tone Loc show.
Recke said this concert season is called "A Season for Everyone" because the city wanted to appeal to a wide demographic of individuals.
"We didn't want to just focus on a particular genre of music," she said. "We think that's important because we need to service people of all ages. So it's a generational theme for the first official season."
Recke said beer will be sold in the park for the first time this year as well.
Freddie Mayse, Central City tourism director, said ample parking has been set up within walking distance of the park, and officials have even worked out how to manage large swaths of people entering and leaving the shows all at once.
He said the hardest part about the park is getting the word out. A lot of individuals still aren't aware it is there, since it's not easily seen from a distance.
"Folks do love it, though," he said. "We are making people aware of the fact that we have the park, and what its uses are and that kind of thing. When people see it, they say it's a gorgeous park, and the set up is nice."
He said acoustically the venue is second-to-none.
Recke agreed, saying that the amphitheater is built to provide a prime concert experience for the community.
"We just want people to come in and have that genuine ambiance," she said. "It is an intimate concert with some of your closest friends is what our goal is, and in a nice facility."
For more information on the concerts, or to purchase tickets to any of the shows visit lurayamp.com.
Bard Distillery is the concert series sponsor.
Bobbie Hayse, email@example.com, 270-691-7315, Twitter: @BobbieHayseMI