2016-05-26 / Front Page

Ballpark concert aims to recreate Garcia concert

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

OLD ORCHARD BEACH – A concert will be held at The Ballpark to raise money for several nonprofit organizations as well as The Ballpark itself. The concert, to be held 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 28, will feature the national touring act, Adam Ezra Group, local and Nashville recording artist Jessi McKinnon and White Stone, acoustic act Treble G, and Jerry Plays the Brewins – a Maine-based Grateful Dead cover band. The Brewins will play a re-creation of a Jerry Garcia Band concert that was performed at The Ballpark on Sept. 13, 1989.

Three nonprofit organizations – the Travis Mills Foundation, New England Parkinsons Ride and Ever After Mustang Rescue – will split the proceeds from raffles drawn throughout the day. Admission, which is $10 in advance or $15 day of event, will benefit The Ballpark. Tickets on the day of the show are half price for 13- to 17-years-olds, and children younger than 12 get in for free.

Bob Kelly, an Old Orchard Beach resident, said he came up with the idea to hold a benefit concert for The Ballpark after watching a town council meeting where

Ballpark Operations Manager Guy Fontaine summarized The Ballpark’s needs.

“I was sitting at home one time, watching the town meeting, and they were discussing The Ballpark and events … I thought, I should try to organize a benefit specifically for The Ballpark,” Kelly said. “Not only to benefit The Ballpark, but also to build awareness to the public that The Ballpark is even open.”

Kelly said he pitched the idea to the Ballpark Commission and they first wanted to know what time of day or night the concert would be held. Fontaine said The Ballpark has gradually begun to hold musical concerts on a smaller scale in recent years for the first time since rock and pop shows at the venue regularly drew 5,000-plus people in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Fontaine said there was one concert, a blues festival, held last year that attracted 1,500 concertgoers, and three concerts are scheduled this year.

“Our goal is to have five concerts a year,” Fontaine said. “We do all our concerts in the day now, from 12 to 5 p.m.”

Fontaine said the concerts would not, however, be similar to the large-scale productions hosted by Seashore Performing Arts Center in the 80s and 90s.

“I don’t know that we would ever bring those back,” Fontaine said. “Whitney Houston drew 18,000 people. We had traffic problems all the way to the turnpike. People who lived in town who came back from work on Saco Ave. couldn’t get home. People complained about noise.”

The venue hosted acts such as AC/DC, Aerosmith, The Allman Brothers Band, The Black Crowes, Blues Traveler, Fleetwood Mac, Judas Priest, KISS, Lenny Kravitz, Dave Matthews Band, Steve Miller Band, New Kids on the Block, Poison, Paul Simon, Whitesnake and ZZ Top, among others.

“They ran late at night with huge speakers, and were heard all over town,” Fontaine said.

“We’re trying to be a good steward and bring things people will like.”

Kelly said he hopes between 500 to 1,000 will attend the Adam Ezra Group concert on Saturday. If more than 1,000 attendees were anticipated, Kelly said a special permit would be necessary. As of the Courier’s deadline, $1,000 worth of tickets had been sold.

Kelly said Fontaine helped him to put together a committee, which included Jimmy the Greek’s owner Jimmy Albert, to help organize the concert. The committee has been organizing the concert since January, he said. Kelly said Albert, who owns the alcohol license for The Ballpark, will also give back 20 percent of the alcohol sales to The Ballpark.

Kelly said he used to promote concerts 20 years ago for bands like Widespread Panic, God Street Wine and Colonel Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit, but has volunteered his time to help The Ballpark.

Kelly said the town council was supportive of the concert, and local businesses have stepped up to sponsor the costs associated with the musical entertainment, including Bill Dodge Nissan, Saco-Biddeford Savings Bank and Hannaford Supermarket.

Kelly said The Ballpark even built a 24-by-12-by-2-foot stage to be used for the concert and future events.

Fontaine said the stage can be adjusted in size by adding different sections and will save the ballpark money in rental costs.

Kelly said the concert is a grassroots production mainly organized by volunteers. Although he has only lived in Old Orchard Beach for two and a half years, Kelly said he has enjoyed getting involved in helping The Ballpark and charity organizations.

Kelly said he also enjoys working with artists, especially helping local and smaller acts get more exposure.

Fontaine said another benefit concert will be held on June 18, titled “Sounds of Hope,” to benefit Project Hope, a program to help treat heroin addiction.

The money The Ballpark makes goes back into the park, Fontaine said. Among the improvements the park has been able to make since there have been more events and its budget has increased in recent years: a handicapped accessible ramp, a restaurant on the terrace and a new sound system.

“We got a brand new sound system that we think will really resolve all our problems with sound being projected out into neighborhoods,” Fontaine said. “It will make things a lot clearer and at the same time keep from projecting. They aim back at the stadium instead of the woodline.”

Fontaine said that if it weren’t for Old Orchard Beach residents who wanted to save the park, the town would have sold it to developers for condos in 2009. Twice, voters rejected a referendum asking residents to sell the park.

Although The Ballpark can hold 5,500 people, Fontaine said he would probably limit ticket sales for Sounds of Hope and other concerts to 3,500. The parking lot can hold 2,500 cars, he added.

“We want people to come here to have a really good experience,” Fontaine said.

For more information on this Saturday’s concert, visit the event’s Facebook page, “OOB Ballpark Benefit Concert” at https://www.facebook.com/ events/795583470585286/

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