Summer events drawing crowds in Kannapolis
By Hugh Fisher
KANNAPOLIS — On summer afternoons and evenings, city parks in Kannapolis are turning into hot destinations.
Not just for people who live in the city, either.
These days, Becky Tolle said, people are driving from other counties for the free concerts, movies and events at Village Park and Veterans Park.
“I love the fact that we are meeting and exceeding the expectations of our citizens. We’re educating, engaging and entertaining them,” said Tolle, the city’s coordinator of recreation and special events.
“We know that recreation in all forms, including arts and cultural events, helps build communities and strengthen families.”
Best of all, everything is free.
This year’s Summer Entertainment Series includes the popular Movies in the Park – films shown on Friday nights at dusk on an enormous inflatable screen on the lawn of Village Park.
The first selection, the animated film “Despicable Me,” drew large crowds.
And next, but not for the faint of heart, is “Jaws” on June 24.
The killer shark flick is a departure from the usual family fare.
But both Tolle and Parks and Recreation Director Gary Mills said kid-friendly movies will always be the norm.
After every event, Parks and Recreation staffers hand out a survey so visitors can speak their mind.
“Without a doubt, we get larger turnouts for the animated, family-style movies,” Mills said. “That’s where our biggest requests have come from.”
“We try every year to put in what we call a ‘throwback movie’ from the ’80s or beyond for the next generation,” Tolle said.
Interestingly enough, “Jaws,” released in 1975, is actually rated PG.
The PG-13 rating wasn’t added to the scale until 1984.
“We try to offer a little bit of everything,” Mills said. “Obviously, we don’t offer R-rated movies.”
Disney movies have always been favorites, Mills said, but they come with restrictions.
Mills said Disney won’t allow its films to be shown outdoors between Memorial Day and the end of summer vacation.
“If you notice, Disney movies always bookend our series of events,” Mills said.
The last movie of this year will be “Tangled,” on August 25.
For grown-ups, “The Blind Side” is back on this year’s schedule after being rained out last year.
Tolle said that pre-show entertainment will be offered starting at 7:30, thanks to local bands.
Families also enjoy the Stories Under the Stars series of kids’ performances, held at the Kannapolis branch of the Cabarrus County Library.
Recent events have drawn crowds of over 150 to the library’s outdoor patio for music, puppets and other fun.
The city’s biggest draws are the free concerts in Village Park.
Country artist Jason Michael Carroll opened the summer series on June 4, drawing an estimated 8,500 people to the downtown amphitheater.
On Saturday, Village Park will sing the blues as the Skydog Woody Project and the Part-Time Blues Band take the stage.
“That is going to be a fantastic show,” Tolle said. “I’m really looking forward to watching them perform live.”
This year’s biggest concert will be the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, performing on Saturday, July 2.
They’ll present an evening of patriotic music with a fireworks display afterward.
Mills said having the show on Saturday night instead of Friday will allow more people to enjoy the concert.
“It’s going to be crowded,” Mills said.
And Loop Road remains closed near the park while construction of a water line and pedestrian tunnel proceeds throughout the summer.
This year, Mills said people should park at nearby shopping centers and use the shuttle busses provided by the city rather than trying to park nearby.
“They’ll pick you up and drop you off right there at the park,” Mills said. “You won’t have to lug your lawn chairs a half-mile if you hop on the shuttle.”
Another new feature at this year’s concerts in Village Park: a beer and wine pavilion.
Tolle said that alcohol sales had gone smoothly at the first concert and there had been no major complaints.
Beer and wine can only be purchased in a small “beer garden” on the edge of the park.
“We ID everyone, absolutely everyone,” Mills said.
For people who want a smaller, more intimate concert experience, there’s Thursdays on Main.
The relatively new event series at Veterans Park is meant to bring people out to meet their neighbors at lunchtime, Tolle said.
“It’s a good social atmosphere. It’s something nice, not just for folks on the (N.C. Research) Campus,” Mills said.
“We get folks from Concord and Kannapolis who just like to tap their feet to the music for a while, then go back to their normal day.”
Thursday, Tolle said about 120 people gathered to hear Ellen Cherry and the band Naked Blue perform.
Now that school’s out, moms and families make up a lot of the crowd, Tolle said.
The economy has played a big part in helping free events flourish in the last few years.
And even though there have been cuts to some Kannapolis Parks and Recreation programs, Tolle said, the summer events have remained untouched.
“That’s partly because of sponsorships and community support,” she said.
Mills said that’s the reason why people are driving from surrounding counties to Kannapolis for concerts and events.
“Regionally, it’s recognized that we do a good job with our events,” he said.
“People can come out, enjoy free entertainment, (and) have a great time.”
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.
Want to go?
Admission is free to all events.
For events at Village Park: Coolers permitted; no glass bottles. No dogs allowed. No smoking and no alcohol permitted on the lawn.
Saturday, June 18: Blues Night, free concert at Village Park, 700 West C St., with Skydog Woody Project and the Part-Time Blues Band. Show begins at 7 p.m.
Thursday, June 23: Thursdays on Main presents SoundBarrier, free concert at Veterans Park, 101 North Main St. 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Friday, June 24: Movies in the Park presents “Jaws,” rated PG, on the lawn at Village Park, 700 West C St. Pre-show concert begins at 7:30; movie begins at 8:45.
Saturday, June 25: Stories Under the Stars presents storyteller David Novak, on the patio at the Cabarrus County Library, Kannapolis branch, 850 Mountain St.
Thursday, June 30: Thursdays on Main presents Sea Cruz, free concert at Veterans Park, 101 North Main St. 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Saturday, July 2: Charlotte Symphony Orchestra’s Stars and Stripes Salute, followed by fireworks, at Village Park, 700 West C St. Show begins at 7 p.m.
For a full listing of films and performances in Kannapolis’ 2011 Summer Event Series, visit www.cityofkannapolis.com/summerevents.