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PHOTO — Elements, featuring a 12-piece band, are shown headlining the 36th annual Savin Rock Festival Saturday night, July 29, performing funky Earth, Wind & Fire nuggets in front of 10,000 spectators and setting Old Grove Park ablaze with a 90-minute-plus set of dance party favorites. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
WEST HAVEN, July 31, 2017 — The 36th annual Savin Rock Festival paid homage to the legacy of “the Rock” with an exciting lineup of musical groups and a mouthwatering row of food vendors, linking the past with the present through old-fashioned, family-friendly fun.
Presented by the Savin Rock Festival Committee, the 2017 edition, held in Old Grove Park, once again used the recipe that made West Haven’s 20th-century amusement park so successful: concerts, rides, games and good food — and ice-cold beer.
For the second time since the event’s debut on July 24, 1982, organizers offered alcoholic beverages, pouring three craft, domestic and imported draft beers in the partially tented beer garden on Palace Street.
As an added treat this year, local musicians, bolstered by an infectious band led by Living Colour bassist Doug Wimbish, serenaded the many partakers of libation with intimate sets of rock ’n’ roll euphoria inside the paradise of suds, which also served a hard cider and a wine.
On Saturday night, July 29, festival headliner Elements, featuring a 12-piece band, played a showstopping concert of rhythm and blues, soul, funk, disco, pop and rock gems from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame canon of Earth, Wind & Fire, setting the Grove ablaze with more than 90 minutes of hits as the all-ages crowd of 10,000 turned the park into a giant dance floor.
This year’s spectacular stage was made possible by the generosity of Wheelabrator of Bridgeport.
Before his band’s “backyard party” performance in the beer garden leading up to Elements, Wimbish, founder of the WimBash Beach Festival, and Mayor Edward M. O’Brien presented a $5,000 check for the school district’s music program to Board of Education member Patrick R. Leigh on behalf of the district.
For the second year, organizers of the benefit music festival, held last August in the Grove, gave all event proceeds — beer, merchandise and raffle sales — to the music program. The 2015 festival donation paid for new instruments at Carrigan Intermediate School.
Wimbish’s charity, the WimBash Music Festival Series, which includes the WimBash Beach Festival and related fundraising events, has collected $15,000 to date for West Haven music education.
The city’s flagship Savin Rock Festival, sponsored by the University of New Haven and TD Bank, kicked off Thursday evening, July 27, with welcoming remarks from O’Brien and followed with a stellar rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Caitlin Morrissey.
Sacred Fire was faithful in its tribute to Santana and was followed by party rock band The RumRunners.
On Friday night, July 28, the History of Rock & Soul Starring Pauly and the Goodfellas, billed as “the ultimate show from the gangstas of soul,” played the songs that defined a generation, entertaining concertgoers with a high-energy, wisecracking mix of music and humor.
Turbulence, anchored by city native Bill Downes on drums, warmed up the throng with a slew of Top 40 anthems.
For most of the weekend, the sun-drenched Grove, fanned by a cool summer breeze, provided a backdrop for the numerous quality performers that set up residence in the 147-year-old park, including alternative rock group Clockwork, country cover band Boondocks, Rubber City, which was powered by a horn section that rivaled such bands as Chicago and Tower of Power, and Boston a cappella group Ball in the House.
They were complemented by Milford’s Brian Smith, former co-host of WPLR’s “Smith and Barber the Morning Show,” who, as the “ringmaster” of ceremonies for the third time, segued the bands with hysterical bursts of comic relief.
For the 23rd year, Marenna Amusements supplied the midway of rides and games, which evoked memories of the bygone era of Savin Rock Park.
The food court along Palace Street housed a smorgasbord of area food trucks and vendors, which served up eggplant Parmesan subs, fried dough, lobster rolls, split hot dogs and roast beef sandwiches, as well as anginetti cookies, candy apples and frozen custard.
Demonstrating the Jaws of Life tool, members of the West Haven Fire Department, led by Capt. Mike Buonasora, pried open parts of a vehicle to free those trapped inside.
A short distance away, members of the West Shore Fire Department, led by Lt. Frank Rasile, demonstrated their amphibious rescue boat.
Veteran crafter Rich Evans was joined by crafters Barbara J. Allen, owner of And Beyond LLC, and Laura Webb, owner of Crystal Webb Jewelry Design, to sell their wares.
Evans, in his 27th year as a festival vendor, displayed his collection of vintage baseball cards and other memorabilia, while Allen spotlighted her handcrafted milk soaps and soy wax candles and Webb showed her handmade jewelry bedecked with semiprecious and healing stones.
Crafters John and Suzanne Patry sold paper bead handbags and jewelry made in Nairobi, Kenya, where their daughter Janet Patry now lives.
Janet Patry is the founder and executive director of New York City-based Right 2 Thrive. Her nonprofit organization’s mission is aimed at gathering resources and establishing locally based programs in Nairobi that empower people living in disadvantaged areas to improve living conditions and develop self-sustaining communities.
The four-day festival closed Sunday, July 30, with spirited concerts by classic rock band Stratus, oldies group Vinnie Carr, pop rock group Sister Funk, R&B band Nu Groove, and The Wayouts, “Connecticut’s freshest and most diversified cover band.”
To view the photo gallery, click on Scenes from the 2017 Savin Rock Festival.
To watch the video on the official West Haven YouTube channel, click on Savin Rock Festival 2017.
— MICHAEL P. WALSH, Public Relations Information Coordinator