By Jennifer Learn-Andes , Wilkes-Barre times Leader
Luzerne County will be holding a free evening concert series at the county-owned River Common recreation area the last three Fridays in July featuring yet-to-be-named bands, county Manager C. David Pedri said Wednesday.
The performers will be both local and national bands, possibly “professional quality tribute bands,” similar to the type of entertainment that would be found at the “Party on the Patio!” at the Mohegan Sun Pocono Casino in Plains Township, Pedri said.
The county administration is working with several organizations and entities to line up performers, corporate sponsors and food trucks and vendors, with much of the legwork handled by county Convention and Tourism Bureau Executive Director Ted Wampole, Pedri said.
This initiative is an effort to showcase the River Common along the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre and attract both area residents and visitors to the park and city’s nearby downtown, the manager said.
“The idea is that many people can come after work to get a bite to eat and enjoy good music, and then maybe they will linger in the downtown area,” Pedri said. “We have to draw more and more attention and use to this beautiful park we have.”
Critics have long complained the River Common is underutilized.
A decade ago, the recreation area received a $23 million revamping that included a new 750-seat amphitheater, fishing pier/landing and extensive landscaping.
The Wilkes-Barre Riverfront Parks Committee has been doing a “phenomenal job” organizing and scheduling events at the park, and the concert series is intended to help the committee in its mission, Pedri said.
In addition to the committee, the county administration is working on the concert project with representatives of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce, the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre and the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Township, Pedri said.
While the bands and times won’t be announced for several weeks, Pedri said he wants to make the plans public so people can reserve the dates and businesses may consider sponsorships.
“It’s starting to gain momentum. We will have a huge announcement at a later date,” Pedri said, noting he will make the series an annual event if it is well received.
Pedri said he was inspired by other cities with riverfront parks that hold similar free concert series.
“Other cities and counties are very envious of this beautiful asset we have, and it doesn’t get enough attention,” Pedri said.
The River Common is the county’s only remaining recreation facility, he stressed. The county transferred ownership of Moon Lake Park in Plymouth Township and the Seven Tubs Nature Area in Plains Township to the state in 2015, and Forty Fort is maintaining and operating soccer fields and other amenities at the county-owned Forty Fort Recreational Complex.
County council had voted in November to earmark $5,000 of its Act 13 natural-gas recreation funding to spruce up the River Common with low-maintenance landscaping.