The always popular Thursday Nights at the Bandstand series returns this summer with six shows at the Millennium Bandstand on Unionville Main Street on Thursday evenings from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. between August 3rd and September 14th from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“Anyone who’s been out on a Thursday night knows how much the festival has grown in the last few years we’ve done it,” says organizer and producer, Bill Dawson. “What started as a way to make sure that the Millennium Bandstand was used the way it was intended has grown exponentially.”
This summer’s series, perhaps more than ever before, is truly back due to popular demand.
In March of this year, due to concerns about closing the street and other logistical problems, it seemed like there might not be any shows at all this summer or even ever again.
With thousands of attendees every week, the cost of keeping the event running safely and smoothly needed to be addressed more fully by the city. The sponsors of the event cover costs of the artists and the logistics, but the growing costs of street closures and crowd management had become less manageable.
There was no clear answer from the city or a logical way forward. Dawson posted about the situation on the series’ Facebook page to thank supporters and announce that the series was coming to an end.
“I really wasn’t intending to do anything, but inform the community that had been so supportive of us for so many years”, says Dawson. “I honestly wasn’t expecting what happened next.”
The community did not just respond, it rallied. Led by Ashley Korey, the concern and outcry were focussed into a petition. Simply no one, it seemed, wanted this beloved tradition to come to an end.
“As it turns out, people from all over York Region put the event on their calendars every summer!” says Dawson
Korey presented what was to be a 5-minute deputation to Markham City Council that ended up becoming a debate that took the better part of an hour.
Nothing focuses the minds and efforts of local politicians like hundreds, if not thousands, of their potential voters unified about a single issue, the city acted quickly and Dawson got the go ahead to book six events for August and September, as well as a promise of support for years to come.
The only problem was that the shows had to be booked in a shorter period of time than Dawson had ever done before.
“Fortunately, booking the shows has always been the easiest part of my job,” says Dawson. “The artists love to come and play for the community here.”
In nearly record time, a lineup featuring many favourites from the series’ history took shape.
First up on August 3 is Dancing Queen’s, ABBA Revisited; a tribute to one of the most commercially successful pop/disco bands of all time.
The Rocket Man Elton Rohn with his renowned performance and tribute to Elton John’s greatest hits returns on August 10. This night also celebrates the 2023 David
Conforti – Reach for the Stars Award recipient, an award established jointly by Autism Ontario and the Conforti Family as a lasting tribute to the life of David Conforti in recognition of making a difference through inspiration and volunteerism in the autistic community.
The Epic Eagles, featuring the incomparable harmonies and legendary songwriting of the Eagles, will perform on August 24.
Simply the Best, a tribute to the late Queen of Rock ‘n Roll, joins the series on August 31. This inclusion is no coincidence as Dawson was hard at work booking the series when news of Turner’s passing broke.
“The minute I saw the news I reached out to their booking agent,” says Dawson. ”Tina had an impact on popular music from Mick Jagger to Beyonce and I thought here’s a great chance for us to celebrate her incredible influence.”
Returning favourites Night Fever, with the multiple dance hits of the Bee Gees, are booked for September 7 and promises another big dance night on the piazza.
The Magic of Motown featuring George St. Kitts and brings this year’s series to a close on September 14 with all the Motown hits you love and remember.
“My thought with this year’s lineup was to bring the most trusted names in tribute music to our audience for this year and for our loyal community sponsors,” says Dawson. “It’s great to be back!”
For line-up details and additional information, check out unionvillepresents.com
Photo: ABBA Revisited starts Thursday Nights at the Bandstand off this August 3.