PARK HILLS – The weather man is promising great weather and Parks Director Dennis (Dooley) Politte is promising two nights of outstanding southern gospel music as this summer’s Concerts in the Park series concludes Friday and Saturday night.
The fifth annual Berry Brothers Outdoor Concert will begin at 7 p.m. both Friday and Saturday at the Twin Oaks Amphitheatre in Columbia Park. The two-night program is cosponsored by the Mid-America Gospel Music Association and the Park Hills Parks and Recreation Department.
Politte said the southern gospel music concerts have been the biggest attractions since the summer concert series began several years ago. Last year’s two-night event drew an estimated 1,000 people to the outdoor theater on the hill in the park located along East Main Street. He is very hopeful this weekend’s programs will provide a rousing finish for the summer season.
The Berry Brothers and another group, Three Friends, drew a good crowd at a concert held in the park July 3. Only one other program this summer drew a larger audience, Politte said, and the turnout for that program was a surprise to him.
Later in July it was when the punk bands Last Flight Home and Bi-Level played that the park had its largest crowd of the season. It was the biggest response the series has had for a program aimed at the teenagers of the area and Politte said it was a very enthusiastic crowd.
“We try to offer something in the series to satisfy the musical tastes of everyone in the community,” Politte said. “Punk rock may not be something I like, but it has an audience and we want to have something for the kids.”
Through the summer, Politte tries to book groups to perform vintage popular music, modern rock, country-western, and southern gospel music. This year attendance has been down for the concerts, which is disappointing, but plans call for another series of concerts next summer. He is hoping there might be some way to bring back the Bob Kuban Brass, a popular group that had to be dropped from this year’s schedule due to finances.
The Berry Brothers, a very popular group made up of Alan, Doug and Steve, will perform both Friday and Saturday nights. The local group’s roots go back nearly 30 years and its popularity has spread well beyond the immediate area.
Also performing on Friday night’s program will be 2nd Coming, a very popular trio from Salem that has been gained a wide following through much of eastern and southern Missouri.
A very familiar name to area rock and roll music enthusiasts of the past three decades will also be performing as a soloist at Friday night’s concert. Andy Polk is now earning a reputation for his rendition of southern gospel favorites and Politte hopes his longtime fans will show up to hear the new version.
One of the most popular southern gospel groups of the region is on the program Saturday night, The Wallen Family. For years, The Wallen Family has been a major attraction for churches as well as community groups. They are what some call “home grown” talent that has become well-known through much of the Midwest and Midsouth.
Also on the stage Saturday night will be soloist Wendell Johnson of Potosi. With his own personal style, Johnson has an ever-growing following in the southern gospel music field.
All those performing this weekend are members of the Mid-America Gospel Music Association which is dedicated to promoting southern gospel music in the region. The concerts Friday and Saturday night have been organized by MAGMA and are coordinated by Alan Berry, Politte said.
“I just sat back and let them handle this one,” Politte said with a smile. “They do a great job and all I have to do is enjoy the music.”
Weather forecasts indicate clear skies and mild temperatures for both Friday and Saturday evenings, which pleases Politte very much.
“Bring your lawn chairs and enjoy the music,” is Politte’s advice to the public, pointing out there is no seating at the amphitheatre. Many prefer to bring blankets and get comfortable on the ground.
Just in case the weather forecasters are wrong, if there should be rain – and the forecasts currently say zero percent chances – the concerts will be held in the auditorium of the Esther Baptist Church on Seventh Street.