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St. Clair’s Riverview Plaza: Free live music Mecca

Photo courtesy of The Gobies Jon Janssen of The Gobies. The band plays six of the 92 free live music shows in Riverview Plaza in downtown St. Clair

92 live music shows to fill courtyard six days a week

By Jim Bloch

The courtyard in Riverview Plaza in downtown St. Clair is shaping up as the free live music Mecca in the Blue Water Area, maybe in the state of Michigan.

“St. Clair is the talk of the area,” said Jeff Bohm, chair of the St. Clair County Board of Commissioners, who worked with Bryan Ulatowski, president of the St. Clair Chamber of Commerce, to put together the 92-show schedule.

“Ninety-two shows is a lot of shows,” said Bohm, who booked the bands and lined up the major sponsors.

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Ulatowski enlisted Chamber members as sponsors.

“Jeff has the connections to bigger sponsors like DTE and SEMCO,” said Ulatowski. “The Community Foundation of St. Clair County was a huge supporter.”

Sponsored by the Chamber and granted a special events permit by the St. Clair City Council on June 7, live music will be performed in the plaza six days per week, and twice on Saturdays, during most weeks May 28-Sept. 26.

The music tends toward classic rock with specific twists. The Gobies, for example, lean toward alternative; Dusk till Dawn leans country.

“We have something for everybody,” said Ulatowski.

The number of music dates per week starts off with three through June 27. On Friday, June 25 listen up for The Rhoades; Saturday, June 26, it’s Los Gringos; on Sunday, June 27, catch the Meldrum Brothers.

A five-day schedule begins the next week with Bob & Lon on Wednesday, June 30; Ian Smith, Thursday, July 1; Paul & Oates, Friday, July 2; Bob & Lon and Los Gringos, Saturday, July 3; and The Gobies playing Sunday, July 4, the night of the city’s fireworks display.

The six-day music schedule debuts the first full week of July with Bob Kerrigan playing Tuesday, July 6.

The performance times are Tuesdays, Wednesday, and Thursdays, 6-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday evenings, 8 p.m.-midnight, and Saturday and Sunday afternoons, 2-6 p.m.

See the full schedule here on pages 6-7 of the 24-page Chamber Directory & Visitor’s Guide.

“We’re already seeing the turnout downtown,” said Ulatowski. “I’ve never seen anything like it in St. Clair. We’re seeing people from all over. I think less than 30 or 40 percent of the people are local. They’re coming up from Clinton Township. People are coming down from Armada. They come for the music and then they find out what we have to offer in St. Clair.”

Is it the biggest free concert series in Michigan?

“We really think it is,” said Ulatowski.

Origins

The massive slate of free music has its roots in the concerts sponsored by the Chamber last August and September.

“We had a really good following,” said Bohm. “A lot of the sponsors wanted to continue the concert series.”

Bohm and Ulatowski began fundraising for the concert series in October and raised around $165,000. The Chamber will use $50,000 for advertizing and $115,000 to pay the bands.

“That’s why we’re able to have 92 shows,” said Bohm. “And we’re not just doing our thing. We’re helping other events that support live music, too.”

Bohm said that the Chamber gave $5,000 to the St. Clair Jazz Festival, $6,000 to the St. Clair Recreation Department’s concert in the park series and about $10,000 in the boat races.

“We put money into the art fair,” said Bohm.

“I can’t wait to see what happens in the future,” said Ulatowski.

Sponsors

The sponsor roster is extensive.

The title sponsors are the St. Clair Endowment Funds of the Community Foundation of St. Clair County, the Blue Water Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and Radio First.

Platinum sponsors include War Water Brewery, DTE Foundation and AT&T.

Drifter’s Restaurant & Lounge, Viking Fitness Center, Eastern Michigan Bank, Amunni Boutique, Nieman’s Family Market and Tru Blue are gold sponsors.

Sine & Monaghan Realtors, Ace Hardware, le marche – an artisan experience and SEMCO Energy Gas Company are silver sponsors.

Bronze sponsors include Hungry Howie’s, iNfuz Architects + Innovators, Towbook Greater Detroit Auto Auction, Northstar Bank and Anderson Eckstein & Westrick, Inc. Civil Engineers, Surveyors and Architects.

Aitken & Ormond Insurance & Risk Management, Thorpe Printing and Riverview Veterinary Center are patron sponsors.

Jim Bloch is a freelance writer based in St. Clair, Michigan. Contact him at bloch.jim@gmail.com.

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