SIOUX CITY | Lyle Huff will show up at Grandview Park hours before Saturday in the Park kicks off, stake out his family’s usual spot that offers an elevated view of the bandshell and watch as the nearly vacant benches and green spaces in front of him fill up with thousands of concert-goers.
SITP has been a tradition for most of the 20 plus years the Ashton, Iowa, resident has made the 70-mile trek to Sioux City to take in the free music festival, which regularly draws 20,000 to 30,000 people.
Each year, Lyle, his wife, Lisa, and their now adult children — and soon their grandchildren — have planned their Fourth of July weekend around SITP and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s an opportunity for family because we make a whole entire weekend out of it,” Lisa said. “We come up the day ahead — back in the day when we didn’t have a business, we would come up the day before the day before.”
In the past, Lisa, Lyle and their children would spend Thursday through Sunday at the Sioux City home of Lyle’s brother, Ed, for SITP and the holiday. However, after the Huffs opened Truly Scrumptious, a specialty bakery and eatery in downtown Sheldon, in 2015, they pushed their Sioux City plans back a day.
“Yup, usually around 2 o’clock,” Lisa said when asked if they close their business early on Fridays before SITP.
The family’s SITP tradition began when Lyle, a self-described music buff who favors most genres, was told by Ed that he should check out this concert in Sioux City.
Lyle instantly became a die-hard fan of the festival and eventually, his family and extended family became involved. On average, he said about 30 people filter in and out of their unofficially designated seating area.
“We’ve never seen a bad band here — except for the country/western stuff,” said Lyle, whose response drew disagreement from his 20-year-old daughter, Brianna, a huge country music fan.
Brianna noted she’s been coming to SITP with her family longer than she can remember and her favorite performers were Santana — his 2010 appearance — and B.B. King.
“Since I’ve started coming, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve missed and one of those times was Chuck Berry because you went alone and left us at the campsite,” Brianna told her dad, who only responded with a laugh.
Lisa’s favorite performers were Bonnie Raitt and Melissa Etheridge, the latter of whom played a double-neck guitar on stage that she had purchased locally from a family-friend of the Huffs.
Of this year’s performers, Lyle said he is most excited about Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. The funk fusion band will perform on The Main Stage as part of a triple headliner, along with British soul singer Joss Stone and rising indie rock band The Revivalists.
When told about the Huffs dedication to SITP, Dave Bernstein, who co-founded the festival 27 years ago was ecstatic.
“That’s great. Man, you can tell by the smile on my face it’s great to hear people coming especially from 60 miles away to check it out; that’s super,” he said. “I run into people out there that day. I run into people afterwards in that same situation and it’s always super, super rewarding to know not only that people come once, but that they come back.”
While the lure of a free show is what initially drew Lyle to SITP more than two decades ago, the event has come to mean so much more to him and his family.
“For me, I have two cousins that live in Arizona, my brothers don’t as live close to home, so it’s a way that we come back together and we see each other and you can almost count on seeing each other every year for Saturday in the Park,” Brianna said.