Ryan Japs, Contributing Writer
The weather could not have been more perfect in central Minnesota as the final installment of the fourth annual Summertime by George 2014 went underway August 27. There were an estimated 1,500 people in attendance on a sunny Wednesday evening coming to enjoy free music, good food and great people.
Lake George was full of paddle boats and canoes as well as community members surrounding the water simply enjoying the view of the unofficial last day of summer in St. Cloud
Eastman Park was absolutely jam packed with folding chairs and blankets pointed towards the newly built performance stage. The stage itself has its own success story. It was built in collaboration with the city of St. Cloud and the Rotary Club of St. Cloud as well as the help of a single anonymous donation of $130,000.
“This entire event is run by our club and our volunteers,” Jeff Free, a volunteer with the St. Cloud Rotary Club said. “So what we do to help fund the bands, security, all the set up stuff is the beer garden and the raffle.”
There were dozens of different prizes raffle ticket buyers could win. “These prizes were donated by our generous community. We got a Honda a civic with a two year lease, we got airline tickets, wild tickets lots of cash prizes and free chicken for a year.”
The food selection was as varied and diverse as the crowd who was eating it. Pizza, cheese curds, barbecue, corn dogs, funnel cake, mini donuts, were among the choices. Next to the food stands were booths were selling souvenirs that were a little more permanent. Vendors were selling tapestries, paintings, hula hoops, dresses, hats, and toys for customers looking for a unique item that will remind them of their time at Lake George.
There were plenty of activities to get the children involved in the festivities. There was a bungee trampoline ride that was reserved for children who were feeling especially bold that day. Clowns were doing face painting and the toddlers got a chance to do some finger painting. The playground was full of activity with scores of children and a few teenagers playing on the elaborate playground in the middle of Eastman Park.
SCSU was also represented at the park with a booth giving away information as well as free promotional items to current students, alumni, and people looking for a potential college career in St. Cloud. There was bean bag toss with the Husky mascot Blizzard as well as the NCHC regular season championship trophy on display for fans to see.
“It has definitely gotten bigger than the last time I have been here that’s for sure” says fourth year attendee Scott Shonka. “There is a lot of people and a lot of action going on its pretty cool to see.”
There is plenty to drink for the adults as well. In order to consume alcohol at Summertime by George, there are a few rules that one needs to follow. Guests must show their drivers license to volunteers at the entrance to the beer gardens and must confirm the person is 21 or older. Once verified, the volunteers will give you a wristband and allow access to the garden.
Once inside the vendors only accept drink tickets which are sold for $5 a piece next to the alcohol booths, one ticket gets you one beer or one glass of wine. After the alcohol is purchased it must be finished within the white fence where the gardens are located and can absolutely not be taken anywhere else through the park.
The park was well secured with police officers patrolling the grounds in pairs of two. “Summertime by George has been a wonderful event for St. Cloud” says Stearns County Police Chief John L. Sanner” We have very little law enforcement issues here it’s just a good time. St. Cloud needed something like this.”
Mayor Dave Kleis appeared on stage and said a few words thanking the Rotary Club and commemorating another great Summer. After a passionate rendition of the national anthem, Mayor Kleis introduced the musical guest for the night, The Fabulous Armidillos.
The band specializes in doing well rehearsed renditions of classic rock songs. They opened with The Who’s Babba O’Riley, followed by other classics by bands Stix, The Rolling Stones, and Chicago to Name a few.
“This is beyond anyone’s expectations” Says Mayor Dave Kleis. “Close to fifteen thousand people here on a Wednesday night, every week has been a successful week. It brings out the whole community and surrounding community for an opportunity to get together, connect, listen to great music and enjoy wonderful food. We are looking forward to next year’s fifth season”.