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Starting as the "Second Stage," the "Abe Stage" has, in the past several years, proven itself to be a strong force in entertainment for the Saturday in the Park scene.

Kelly Quinn, co-owner of Marty's Tap and The Marquee, is in his fifth year of being an Abe Stage coordinator, a job that keeps him, Brandon Stowe and Jason Reinert on their toes while booking acts and setting up the show.

"I got involved after talking with Brandon and Jason, who brought the Second Stage back about 12 years ago," said Quinn. "Just in a conversation talking about it I said I would like to help if they needed me. It was starting to blow up at the time, so I hopped on board."

That's right, the Second Stage was a force in the park for several years, but went away for some time. Reinert and Stowe started the stage back up with some prodding from the late Pete Johnson. The Abe Stage this year is dedicated to the memory of Johnson, who was a huge part of the Saturday in the Park family and died last summer.

"They (Reinert and Stowe) talked to Pete Johnson," said Quinn. "Johnson was a good friend of Brandon's and knew Jason. They knew Johnson was associated with Saturday in the Park because his dad, Randy, was in charge of beverages. They turned to Pete and, in turn, Pete was the middle-man to Randy. Pete had a large part to do with the re-creation of the Second Stage. Randy, who is an open-minded, awesome guy, brought the idea to Dave (Bernstein, festival founder) and they started the stage back up. From where the stage was the first year it came back to where it is today is today, the evolution has been huge."

The evolution of the stage isn't just limited to the quality of artists performing on it. There have been multiple physical changes for the Abe in the past several years as well.

"We used to use the city's staging," said Quinn. "Now we are using a 32-foot by 32-foot professional stage. The tent never used to be there; now we have a tent. From where we were five years ago to now with Todd (Shumansky, Creative Entertainment), who runs huge festivals...the sound, the stage, the look, the feel and the caliber of acts has improved dramatically."

It takes a lot of work to book these artists, but the Abe Stage committee members don't back down from a challenge; even if it means dealing with a multitude of emails.

"There is a lot of insight from our 'Abe' page on Facebook," he said. "People think we don't listen, but we do. At the end of it, I love to hear what people want to see the next year. From there, we get hundreds upon hundreds of emails, countless phone calls, paper work and band riders. When it comes to local acts, we want to keep it fresh and diverse. Not every rock band or rap group will be able to play, and we try not to use the same artists again for several years so there aren't repeats."

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Quinn believes that any genre of music, as long as it is quality, would work on the Abe Stage.

"By now we have tried every genre," he said. "The Abe Stage is the alternative stage and we really want to keep the acts diverse. One thing I don't think we've done is country, and I'm not saying that wouldn't work, I'm just saying it's something we haven't looked into...but with a big demographic of country fans, maybe it is something to look at in the future."

The Abe Stage has started pulling more and more people; they gravitate toward the energy of this smaller stage. There are around 20 people manning this section of the park, catering to the artists, setting up and tearing down the equipment.

As for the artists that Quinn is most excited for?

"Aside from the killer lineup of local bands, I'm a big Matisyahu fan," he said. "I'm a big reggae fan. The past several years, his name has come up, but he was too big. I think we've gotten to a point where we can get fairly top-tier festival acts. We aren't getting headliner festival acts, but if you look at Matisyahu's schedule, he is playing some pretty big stuff and he is never on the bottom of the artist list. To land an act that is current on the festival scene, I think it will bring more of a festival vibe. It will make people aware that Saturday in the Park isn't just about the blues and rock."

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