As Saturday in the Park nears, Dave Bernstein looks back fondly at the years of great live music the festival has brought to Sioux City.
After co-founding the annual outdoor music event nearly 27 years ago with Adam Feiges, Bernstein can rest easy knowing Saturday in the Park continues to evolve. Last year proved just that with the morphing of the Second Stage – now known as The Abe Stage.
The new setup was paired alongside a surprise hit performance by rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot, who attracted a swelling crowd of people to the southern edge of Grandview Park. Organizers were both shocked and pleased by the public’s overwhelmingly positive reaction to The Abe Stage.
This feat alone showed signs of growth for this year's festival, which features headline performances by Joss Stone, The Revivalists and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue on the Main Stage and rapper Brother Ali on The Abe Stage.
“I think The Abe guys have another great lineup this year, and I think it’s really going to be cool to see what it’s like the second year,” said Bernstein. “I think it’s going to be big and super exciting as well. On the Main Stage, we’re really pumped as well.”
For Bernstein, it’s hard not to reflect on previous years around this time. He remembers all of the volunteers, committee members and sponsors that have made sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.
“It’s a really great group of folks, and I’m really grateful to be able to work with a lot of awesome people,” he said. “Except for the 25th year, which was over the top for a couple of other reasons, we’re expected to have a record year this year in fundraising.”
New sponsors jumped in to present certain artists or help with fireworks or the shuttle bus.
“We’ve had so many sponsors for so many years,” said Bernstein. “It’s really great to raise that much money for a free event. It’s overwhelming in a positive way.”
Bernstein also thinks back on past performers at Saturday in the Park; performers like Greg Allman and Chuck Berry that had passed away within the last year but had played the Sioux City music festival years prior.
He also remembers departed Saturday in the Park “super fans” like LaVonne Roage and Jim Rocklin, who attended nearly every festival since its inception.
“Jim wrote one of the first editorials on Saturday in the Park and how awesome it was for Sioux City and everything and really helped us with some great reinforcement when we needed it most,” said Bernstein. “LaVonne was in her 90s and still attending Saturday in the Park and loved it. Such a big loss. She was a wonderful lady.”
And while the music at Saturday in the Park may change as the years go on, the one thing that likely won’t change is its foundation rooted in the community. It’s organized by the community, funded by the community and thrives through the community’s attendance.
“This is a community event,” said Bernstein. “You will never have a free Saturday in the Park that raises over $300,000 if it wasn’t for the spirit of community. I’m really looking forward to it this year. I can’t overstate enough what The Abe Stage guys did last year and how I think that’s going to build and be awesome.
“And we’re going to have a killer afternoon on the Main Stage and into the evening.”