By Karen Anderson, Laingsburg Correspondent
LAINGBURG – On Friday, June 18, 2021 on a sweltering hot summer day, the temperature dropped to 81 degrees for the evening dedication and entertainment at the McClintock Park Amphitheater Grand Opening. There were reports of the crowd number was at least 400 people and nearly another 100 active participants to make this grand event spectacular. The Master of Ceremonies Tom Turek, a well-admired figure of the community, performed an outstanding job of introductions and Joni Starr who kept the program flowing smoothly.
After months of City Council meetings, committee meetings, and writing grants for funding, Paula Willoughby dedicated many hours to raise and coordinate the logistics to obtain funds and worked with planners to build a magnificent addition to the McClintock City Park. Today was the day of recognition and appreciation of all the hard work of so many people who made this event successful. The Amphitheater was designed and built by local architect Bob Ford of Laingsburg. Keith Kingsbury was the photographer who shot dozens of photographs for the historical posterity.
Prior to the main program, Food trucks were available for the public included the Dairy Den, Michigan Vegan and Got Smoke BBQ. The pavilion and lawn activities were coordinated by the LARC members. Sponsors which included Hometown Child Care, Just for Fun, Laingsburg Recycler’s and Memorial Hospital.
Tom Turek, MC welcomed the crowd and invited all to assemble around the Amphitheater to begin the dedication of the McClintock Park Amphitheater. First on the program was Laingsburg Community Singers. Turek introduced Steven Easterling, LCS Music Director and Director of the Laingsburg Community Singers.
Easterling opened the program with the announcement of what an honor it is to be able perform on the new Amphitheater steps and be on stage for the first time since their 2019 appearance at Carnegie Hall. The singers opened with “American the Beautiful” and closed with “There’s a River in Judea”. Some of their songs during their performance included, “The Circle will be Unbroken” and “We Sing Because We are Happy.” According to comments from people attending, “The singers set the stage for a beautiful musical evening.”
Celebratory guest comments from Rep. Ben Frederick, included a special “Congratulations” to all the people who contribute to make the community a wonderful place to raise their families and make their home. Ms. Carlee Knot represented Senator Gary Peters office. She set the tone of the evening speaking about the long incredible history of community of Laingsburg. The Historical connotations from both speakers and review of the ‘berg’ history added to the Patriotic theme of the evening.
Laingsburg Mayor Culpepper spoke on behalf of City Council that this celebration is for the community whom they serve. Culpepper stated, “It’s about the people who choose to live here and work to pay their taxes to make this community what it is…” Generations of families have resided in this area for 100’s of years. He stressed the feeling of gratefulness towards the many people who teach our children, provide services for each other and run businesses to make this a successful and safe place to live and play.”
Next, a special tribute was given to the historical plaque that stands between the Pavilion and Amphitheater. The marker was unveiled by Paula Willoughby and Mark Brink representing an impressive history of Laingsburg.
Turek invited the guest speakers, members of the City Council, LARK members and the planning commission, Bob Ford and the contractors who built the Amphitheater, and the community leaders to pose with for the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. A special recognition was given to everyone who made this event possible. Mayor Culpepper and Paula Willoughby had the honor of cutting the ribbon.
Father Bob Bachik of St. Isadore Church gave the invocation, as The Jack Clarkson Band played Curtis Mayfield’s classic “People Get Ready.” Father Bob is leaving Laingsburg for another position in the church but professed his love of Laingsburg and plans to retire in this wonderful community. That, in itself is a tribute to the kindness and love that resides in this city.
The Jack & Tess Clarkson Band, with special guest stars included Kathy Ford, Motown voice and notorious keyboard musician; Bronnie Brown, formerly a USAF Band horn player and Bill Fuller, a Nashville favorite on the guitar was the musical entertainment scheduled for the evening. Many others shared in the joy of music. Autumn Brown, LHS student sang a Taylor Swift and a Linda Ronstadt song in her beautiful voice that echoed in the park from the new bandstand stage. Talent was enjoyed by all when Jen West’s “Spirit Expressions” dancers performed, and Laingsburg students stole the show when they danced to “This Thing Called Love” by Queen.
Other musical guests included Dr. Barbara Gurden, local family physician, sang “Doctor, Doctor” with the band. Memorial Health Care, Becky Dhlke sang “Lean on Me.” It was a hot night in Laingsburg. Talent and Heat. Memorial Health Care was the event sponsor for the evening. An appreciative tribute to first responders and medical personnel was part of their dedication. In celebrating the Amphitheater, a special recognition of the LBCA, specifically, Jody, Paula, Lori and Gail and Joni for their contributions to the music and activities they support in the City of Laingsburg.
Clarkson made a special tribute to Mike Putman for his years of bringing music to Laingsburg and to Greg Beavers, of Pine Hills Golf Course for having outdoor concerts for the last two years. A special thank you was presented to Ronda and John Liskey for patronizing and organizing the band shell concerts for the month of July. If there is rain on one of the Friday nights, an announcement will be posted on Face Book that the music will be at the Clarkson Barn, one mile south on Hollister, off Round Lake Road. Lots of parking.
Cover photo: City Officials, Dignitaries and Community members took part in the ribbon cutting ceremony