SIOUX CITY | A sea of humanity laid claim to the green fields of Grandview Park Saturday with blankets and lawn chairs galore for the 25th year of Saturday in the Park.
The weather could not have been more perfect as the mercury hovered in the low 80s for most of the day. In true form to celebrate July Fourth, so much attire was American Flag inspired it might have made Captain America envious.
A long row of grills and ovens emanated with the smell of roasting meat as music filled the air from two directions.
Local acts played on both the big bandshell stage and a second stage closer to the south entrance. The bass was loud enough from raucous acts like Gogol Bordello to feel it thump inside your chest.
By the afternoon, most of the empty greenspace had been taken up by festival goers, and you could forget about nabbing a spot in the shade.
The evening would close out with the legendary Aretha Franklin and a fireworks show.
For many the day was a perfect chance to spend family time in the presence of live music beneath sunny skies. The kids zone and vendor shops enhanced that experience, with bounce houses and airbrush facepaint for adults and children alike.
On their way to the kids activities, Maria Durr of Sioux City fumigated her husband, Zack’s head with bug spray. Zack Durr attended the first Saturday in the Park in 1991, and has attended each one in the past seven years.
“It’s grown so much, but it still feels fun to be here,” he said. “It’s a neat setting, everyone comes together and it’s good for the community. I love bringing my kids here."
His daughter, Sofia, chimed in her approval as well.
“I like the food,” she added.
And food was plentiful, from cheesesteak sandwiches to turkey legs the size of a full-grown man's forearm.
Finding parking was an increasingly longer journey from car to park as the day went on. Two businesses, Hy-Vee Mainstreet, 2611 Pierce St., and UnityPoint Health St. Luke's, 2720 Stone Park Blvd., both put out signs to safeguard their parking lots, reading "Customers only" and the like.
Behind the bandshell, adults sipped adult beverages in pools of shade, away from the hustle and bustle if only for a moment. Sitting on hay bales were three women laughing it up from Lake Charles, Louisiana.
For Eva Poole, Kitty Clark and Karen Brejean, it was the prime place for their summer trip. The trio traveled more than 1,000 miles to attend the festival.
In fact, this was Clark’s second time. She thought so highly of attending back in 2002, she brought her friends 13 years later.
“It was amazing then and it is amazing now,” Clark said. “The people are so nice here.”
Poole echoed that statement. She said they had been greeted with courtesy since they reached the Midwest. And, she said the kindness only increased as they got on the trolley at the Tyson Events Center for the shuttle to the park.
"Well, we are from Louisiana, so of course we were so excited for the Mardi Gras celebration," Poole said. The Mardi Gras celebration was July 2 at the Tyson Events Center.
Across the amphitheater bowl at Grandview Park was a stretch of sidewalk filled with customers flanked on each side with vendor tents.
One such shop tent, Zeke’s Tree, was selling handmade goods from Peru, Nicaragua and Indonesia. Nikki Faller, her husband D.J. and her mother Sharon Carlson were happy to be selling their wares at the festival.
“We use this as a clearance sale. Saturday in the Park is so busy,” Nikki said. The day brought tons of customers, including familiar faces, she said. The shop is preparing for its ribbon cutting on July 9 for its new store in Sioux City.
“Being here today is great. Tiring, but great,” she said.
While the main stage carried acts like Gogol Bordello and headliner Aretha Franklin, the second stage near the south entrance was the setting for several genres of music with local flavor.
Rosario “Rev” Perez, Jr., the self-described real-life hip hop musician, had already performed his set by mid-afternoon, and then enjoyed the other acts, front-row center.
“I did my first show April 19, 2014. Here I am, a year and some months later, doing Saturday in the Park,” he said.
The chance for local bands to perform on the second stage was an amazing service for the Sioux City music scene, he said. To his knowledge, none of the present artists were signed to major labels, so the exposure for them was welcome.
“The scene is alive and flourishing here. Saturday in the Park, it’s a force to be reckoned with. I want to say thank you to everyone on behalf of the music community,” Perez said.
Dave Bernstein, the event’s co-founder, said the day and crowd could not have been better.
Berstein estimated attendance at around 6 p.m. as "a lot.” A re-estimate at 9 p.m. was about 25,000 to 30,000 people.
“We couldn’t ask for a more fantastic day. Everything is going smooth, everyone is dialed in,” he said.