Alachua ‒ Live music returned to the city of Alachua on Oct. 24, a year after City officials cut the ribbon at the new outdoor amphitheater in Legacy Park. The amphitheater was part of the overall plan to make Legacy Park a central location for various recreational activities for city residents and visitors. The amphitheater is designed to host a variety of entertainment and cultural events such as concerts, dance recitals, theater and possibly an outdoor movie night. The project cost $3.2 million and also included two large multipurpose fields for outdoor sports tournaments and seating for events.
Plans were made for hosting a monthly summer concert series starting in the spring of 2020. The Parks and Recreation Department planned to bring in a diverse mix of music from jazz and rock to country. “We wanted to try different styles to see what the audiences were most interested in,” said Kimberly Vermillion, the City’s event coordinator.
But the pandemic struck and like everything else, social gatherings were put on hold, and the new amphitheater sat silent and empty throughout the summer. “We had to cancel bands that were already booked and take it month-by-month waiting for a chance to reopen safely where people would feel comfortable coming out,” Vermillion stated.
After postponing events for months, the City held its first concert event Saturday night featuring Majesty of Rock, a tribute band that plays the music of Journey and Styx. Based in Central Florida, the band consist of John D'Agostino, lead vocals; Rob Doyle, bass and vocals; and Bob Hoose, guitar, vocals, keyboard; and vocalist Barry Gruber and drummer Jimi Bauchat.
To follow CDC safety guidelines, the City painted squares large enough for three to four people on the ground with each square six feet apart to maintain social distance. Also, on site was a food truck vendor. “We had planned on having multiple vendors, but since this was the first event, we limited it to one in case the crowd was small so a single vendor could still make money,” Vermillion said.
In addition to music at the event, former Santa Fe College art professor Blake Harrison had paintings on display. Harrison is best known for his wall murals in downtown Gainesville. Several years ago, he also helped repair the wall mural of Tom Petty on the 34thth Street wall in Gainesville. The mural had been painted by another artist as a tribute to Petty who is from Gainesville and had been defaced with graffiti. Since the original artist had left the area, Harrison repaired it for free and maintains it. “I took on the project because of Petty’s impact on Gainesville and the rest of the world with his music,” Harrison said. “I will keep repainting the wall as long as I need to even though it may get graffitied again.” Many of his paintings feature musicians, and Richardson felt it would be a good match for the opening concert.
Although this was the first public outdoor event at the amphitheater, there was still an audience of about 200 sitting on lawn chairs as Majesty of Rock performed a variety of Journey's songs in a two-hour concert.
“We learned some lessons at this event on how to improve the logistics and promotion for events at the amphitheater with this show, but overall, I think it went really well and I got a lot of positive feedback from the audience,” said Vermillion. “Unfortunately, this will be the only concert until next spring. We are getting into our busy holiday event schedule and need to focus on that.”
The City plans to expand the shows here and feature bigger name acts as well. While concerts are on hold until spring, the amphitheater will host a free outdoor dance performance of the Nutcracker on Dec. 3 to celebrate the Christmas season.
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