BARBERTON: This weekend, for the first time, visitors to the city’s popular Lake Anna concert series will be able to enjoy a cold brew.
Three concerts have been chosen to introduce beer sales, starting with Bon Journey NY, a Bon Jovi/Journey tribute band, at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
To make room for the “beer garden” and an expected increase in revelers, Bon Journey NY will play at what the city calls “Block 7” — a parking lot cater-cornered to Lake Anna where the annual Cherry Blossom Festival is held.
Parks Director Shane McAvinew said the move was also, in part, to appease older concertgoers who associate concerts at the gazebo with nonalcoholic entertainment, often ’50s/’60s music or polka groups.
“I tried to make a separation,” McAvinew said.
The beer garden will be operated by a nonprofit vendor, with proceeds earmarked for youth sports, the city’s Labor Day fireworks and Barberton Area Community Ministries.
The other two concerts that will feature beer sales are the Aug. 30 performance of the Pink Floyd tribute band Dark Side of the Moon, and the Aug. 31 Jimmy Buffett music of Parrots of the Caribbean, both starting at 7:30 p.m.
McAvinew said some Lake Anna neighbors and a reunion group that has an activity planned around the Dark Side concert wanted the event kept at the gazebo.
“These people are supporters, and I decided it would be the right thing to do,” McAvinew said. “It also gives me a chance to see how the beer garden would work [at the gazebo] as well as down the block.”
Meanwhile, Parrots will play at Block 7 at the same time a ’50s group plays at the gazebo — the city’s more traditional Labor Day weekend entertainment — and the holiday crowd can stroll between the two stages.
The city has been hosting free concerts at Lake Anna since the late 1970s, but in recent years the crowd has skewed older. McAvinew said the rock bands and the beer sales are all part of a plan to offer younger people an alternative.
“The concerts at the gazebo are geared toward a certain age group, and when I took over, I wanted to expand what we offered,” McAvinew said. “I like ’50s and ’60s, and I like polka, but I wanted to have a larger variety of individuals coming to the lake.”
There have been beer sales at festivals and events, like a recent Relay for Life concert, but this will be the first time beer is served at the city-sponsored concert series.
Mayor William Judge supports the experiment and said there will be extras security on nights beer is served.
“We will do it in a controlled environment,” he said.
He said beer sales could be a “double-edged sword.”
“There’s always that one guy …” he said.
“I hate to think of alcohol as an economic driver, but I look at downtown Akron,” he said, referring to the many summer events Akron hosts that serve beer and fill downtown streets all summer long.
“If people are going to spend money,” Judge said, “I’d like to see them spend it here.”