Fenton, MI — August 29, 2019
You know summer is coming to a close when certain events occur. The Labor Day holiday means the last big trek up north for camping over the long weekend. The nighttime air carries a little bit of a chill and the Fenton Mill Pond Concerts come to an end for the year.
It is fitting that the group Magic Bus was the final act of the year. The band performs late 60’s era rock and roll.
Celebrating the Memory of Woodstock
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. So, the timing was perfect for the outdoor concert. Just over 50 years since that August weekend at Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York.
“Magic Bus is the known Woodstock group in Michigan and I’m sure throughout many areas,” said Nancy Muffley, 49, program administrator and event planner for Southern Lakes Parks and Recreation. Muffley schedules the concerts for Fenton and manages the concert series through Southern Lakes Parks and Recreation. “So, I start scheduling bands, communicating with bands and doing research on bands as early as December,” she said.
Nancy said it’s important for Southern Lakes Parks and Recreation to offer a variety of types of music in the concerts it brings to the community. “Everybody has such a vast difference in what they like within the different music genres. So, we hit every type of genre to satisfy everyone’s musical desires-everything from country to Woodstock to jazz to harder rock to tribute bands.,” Nancy Muffley said. The events are funded by the Fenton DDA.
Mark Harrington, originally of Waterford, who now lives in Fenton, is the founder, lead guitarist and one of several lead singers in the group. A fan of the Woodstock era, he started putting the group together 12 years ago. Woodstock in 1969 culminated a time often referred to as the “summer of love”. “I think that music carries so much with it. It has so much of a history! It’s really the music of a generation. All the political change, all the civil change, the Vietnam War, the idea that we could get along and the young people questioning their government, being involved and representing change is all represented in that music,” Harrington said.
Magic Bus is able to emulate multiple groups and artists, such as Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane and Joe Cocker The music rekindles a fire in many people and gives young people a glimpse of what it was like in the Woodstock era. “From the music, to our dress, to the lighting, we’re a very good representation of what it would be like to be at a rock concert in a park in that era,” Harrington said.
Outdoor Concert Adds to Festival Atmosphere
Those who have seen Magic Bus perform before were not surprised at the multitude of people who turned out to dance near the stage and throughout the park as the 60’s group performed at the Fenton Millpond Park gazebo.
Concert goers showed their 60s spirit by wearing tie-dyed shirts and dresses, flowers in their hair, some had light bulbs on them, bell bottoms, headbands, and 60’s-style sunglasses.
“The concert was spot on! Magic Bus has all the right notes and the voices. They own the audience,” said Kurt Jung, 63, of Rose Township. “They play like you want to hear it; like the original people,” said Maura Jung, 63, also of Rose Township.
“We’d seen them before. I knew what I was going to get; a big crowd-along with the Farmer’s Market and everything else. It’s great. Magic Bus is a well-known group. They’ve got quite a following. We wanted to come down, enjoy the night and get something to eat at Fenton House. The turnout was wonderful, but I totally expected them to have it. I liked seeing all the people collected to watch the concert and all the families on the playground. I like seeing the people utilize the facilities here. I enjoy the whole genre. I like it because it attracts a lot of people. It seems to be interesting to people from a lot of different walks of life,” said Brad Jacob, 47, of Fenton.
About Magic Bus
The group has performed everywhere, from Orlando, Florida to West Virginia and all over the Midwest. They have recorded three albums. The latest; Journey to Woodstock is a tribute to Woodstock’s 50th anniversary.
“Magic Bus is reaching out to the older crowd. They brought in a different genre of sound that has transformed a lot of the music we listen to today and were reminiscent of a lot of great musicians that influenced people,” said Hunter Muffley, 19, of Southern Lakes Parks and Recreation, who described the 60s style of music as “full of spirit.”
Magic Bus’ business manager, Mark Richards, said he has been told by young people they appreciate the music of their parents’ generation more once they see it live compared to hearing it on the radio or on music videos they see on TV.
Starla Jill Palso, 41, of Davison, thought the best song Magic Bus performed was “Smile on Your Brother” by the Youngbloods because it reminded her of Vietnam. Her father was a veteran who had records sent to Vietnam and she asked the group to acknowledge veterans. “Not everyone was a hippie,” she said.
Maris Prieditis, 37, of Fenton liked the song “Let’s Live for Today” by The Grassroots.
“That’s a cool song! I liked the environment. I feel like the whole town comes down. It’s fun,” he said.
“Smalltown America is the best! You’ve got ice cream, beer and live music,” said Louis Albrant, 47, of Fenton.
The Fenton Farmer’s Market also runs Thursday nights with the summer concert series, it is open from June to September 19th. “We have some food vendors here at the market. Mr. O’s Hot Dog Stand is one of them. He is new this year and is a welcome addition. He always has a line,” Nancy Muffley said.
Music in the Park has been going on in Fenton for over 15 years. “We started with a more modest crowd. Through the years we saw it embraced by the community and saw incremental growth. We’ve had increased funding year after year. It has grown from a small concert series to what we see today. This is the largest concert series in the area that I’m aware of,” Nancy Muffley said.
The concerts attract not only community members but people from out of town traveling sometimes hours to see the shows. “Since the concert series is funded by the DDA it just kind of shows the commitment of the DDA to invest our local businesses, as well as in different activities and events to further better our businesses and our city itself,” Nancy said.
We can’t wait for the Music in the Parks concerts in Fenton to return next June. Especially because it means summer is here again.