Cumberlandfest goes a little bit country

Cumberlandfest goes a little bit country

Kelley Lennon, at left, Nicole Frechette, and Maria Morris.
Fun changes breathe new life into this year’s celebration

CUMBERLAND – It was becoming broke, both literally and figuratively, and had to be fixed.

After inclement weather dug deeply into profits for the past two years, causing major frustration, the small but dedicated group of Cumberlandfest steering committee members have taken major steps to overhaul the celebration.

“The celebration was broken, so we’re trying to take steps to fix it,” said event co-chairman Bob Donnelly.

The most significant changes are that this year’s celebration dates have been changed, and for two nights, the entertainment will take on a country flavor rather than the traditional rock and roll.

Cumberlandfest number 23 will open this year on Thursday night, Aug. 8 at 6 p.m. and remain open until 10 p.m. It will be in operation on Friday at the same hours, Saturday from noon to 11 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.

Since its inception, the festival has run from Friday night to Monday.

“What we found was that on Monday, the amusement and food vendors were all breaking down early so they could get to their next gigs,” said Gregg Noury, co-chairman. “I’ve always been a proponent of adding the extra night on Thursday, and this year, we’re finally going to try it.”

This year, the bandstand fireworks will take place on Thursday night, and from 7-9 p.m., Amanda Leonardo from radio station Cat 98.1 will be broadcasting live from Diamond Hill Park.

All of the amusement park rides in the Fanelli Brothers midway will be open, as will food vendors and arts and crafts. The fireworks display is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m.

“It might be a mistake, but we’ve come to the point where we have to try some new things, as well as keep the most popular events from previous years,” said Donnelly. “It’s time to step out on the ledge and see if people respond.”

Other than the fireworks displays, perhaps the most successful portion of Cumberlandfest has been the Friday night “Rock in the Park” program when area high school rock bands take to the stage in the center of the park and a special pay one price promotion is held on the midway, where patrons can purchase a bracelet for $20 and ride as many rides as they wish for the entire evening.

“That part of the celebration wasn’t broke, so we’re bringing it back,” said Donnelly.

The pay one price promotion will be repeated on Sunday from noon-4 p.m.

Scheduled to perform on Friday night are Zoe Ainsburg, Through the Wall, Suburban Downfall, Dylan Sevey and The Gentlemen, Sienna and Trophy Wives.

Donnelly, who stepped down as president of Cumberland Youth Hockey and replaced long-time co-chairman Joe Vela last year, said there was a change in admission for the first time in nearly a decade last year. Because of dwindling revenue and rising costs, the volunteer committee has opted to charge children between the ages of 3 and 12 a dollar to enter the park. Children had never been charged before. Those under 3 will be admitted at no cost. Cost for those older than 12 will remain at $5.

There will be no dog show this year. Donnelly said the committee searched long and hard to find a qualified person to direct the show, but were unsuccessful. But all the other attractions will be back, and some new ones have been added.

After the Rock in the Park on Friday, festivities will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday with the 23rd annual Cumberlandfest Road Race, directed by Tom Kenwood. The race will begin and end at the entrance to the park and follow a route along Diamond Hill Road to Pine Swamp Road and back, with a police escort. The race is named in memory of Sal Corio and Kyle McLaughlin, deceased Cumberlandfest volunteers.

Ernie Labbe, who has volunteered at the festival since its inception, is returning and is in charge of fireworks. He is particularly fond of the bandstand display.

“This is the only show of is kind anywhere around here,” said Labbe. “I work with John Ruggieri and his Kaboom Pyrotechnics company and we’re always looking to improve things and make interesting changes so people want to come back and see what new things we’ve done.”

One year, Ruggieri suggested shooting a show from the bandstand, in front of the park pond, and it proved to be a huge success, and has been done since. Aerial fireworks are slated for Saturday night.

Saturday is also when the festival will introduce its new countryfest celebration and new entertainment chairman, Jerry Schimmel, has secured performances by Jacy Dawn, Maria Morris and Nicole Frechette. All three singers have albums and are connected with Nashville, the country music capital of the world.

“A group of us have been meeting since September trying to figure things out, and we came to the conclusion that for whatever reason, country music is very popular right now so we asked Jerry Schimmel to come up with something and he has come through big time,” said Donnelly.

The country performances will precede the aerial fireworks display, which has been moved from Sunday to Saturday night.

“That gives us a backup in case we have rain on Saturday,” said Noury.

Sunday night’s entertainment will be headlined by nationally accalimed accordian player Corey Pesaturo, and the popular Kelley Lennon.

Rick Alves is the food court special events chairman and has added some new twists to that area. Dan Butterworth and his marionettes, a hit with children, will be returning as will Benjamin Elfant, a circus performer. Rounding out the Saturday entertainment will be Serious Wreckage, an acoustic rock group.

The Sunday lineup will include the Encore Repertory Company, Josh Lyle, Daniel James Durand and Power League wrestling.

On Sunday at 9 a.m., a classic car show will take place under the direction of Bob Parker. The show will take place until 3 p.m.

This year’s road race on Saturday, will begin at 10 a.m., rather than the traditional 9 a.m. start.

A bingo tent, operated by volunteers from the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln, will be in operation throughout the festival.

New this year is golf lessons for junior players 15 and under. They will be offered by Mike Bradshaw, the professional at Kirkbrae Country Club on both Saturday and Sunday from 1-7 p.m.

Donnelly cautioned that no dogs will be allowed on park grounds, and for safety purposes, no bicycles or skateboards will be allowed.

“People can ride their bikes to the festival if they want to, but they will have to leave them outside in a designated area,” said Donnelly. “And we will not allow any political paraphernalia of any kind. Candidates are welcomed to attend and meet people, but they cannot distribute their literature or campaign material.”

Cumberlandfest is operated totally by volunteers and benefits youth recreation groups in the community, including the Boys & Girls Club, Cumberland Colts Football, Cumberland Youth Hockey, Cumberland Youth Lacrosse, the CYB/SL and the Cumberland Youth Soccer Association.

All proceeds are divided equally among the participating groups.

“Hopefully, we get four good days of weather,” said Donnelly. “Last year, we really got hurt by the rain.”