Rain, thunder and lightning may have been the only obstacles Patti Nenna and Tammy Mojkowski envisioned having to deal with when they became co-chairs of the Bristol Fourth of July Concert Series back in 2020.
But the unexpected Coronavirus proved much worse than Mother Nature’s angry wrath.
In 2020, a dark cloud hung over Independence Park. Typically filled with up to 5,000 concert-goers nightly, the picturesque park overlooking Bristol Harbor would be empty in 2020. The sun would set in silence. The Bristol 4th of July concert series was canceled.
Watch the 237th Bristol 4th of July Parade – Monday, July 4th at 10:30am ET on YurView NE (Cox channel 4) and a free live stream on watch.yurview.com.
“What can we do safely? How can we make things happen? How are we doing a parade? That was the focus. How can we still celebrate for our community?” recalls Nenna. “No one does it by themselves. We have an amazing team of people. There were a lot of things that didn’t happen, but there were things that did.”
The show must go on.
A live concert wasn’t able to occur, but a virtual, live streamed concert certainly was possible. The first ever Bristol 4th of July virtual concert was held on a rain-soaked late August afternoon at Mount Hope Farm. Five local bands performed for five straight hours.
“It was the ONLY rainy day in August, but it was fabulous because it allowed us to still do something,” said Nenna. “All the bands were local and donated their time. We figured out how to do the best we could and that’s what we did.. We made it happen. It was a great day.”
A year later, Nenna and Mojsowksi were faced with the same challenge as the pandemic lingered, forcing them to pivot and think out of the box once again.
Producing a concert series at Independence Park with all the necessary COVID protocols was a hurdle too difficult to overcome. So they shifted and moved the series from its original home to Roger Williams University, a larger venue that would allow spectators to spread out and adhere to all the necessary COVID guidelines and protocols.
“We had a lot of good nights. Roger Williams was fabulous,” said Nenna.
But there’s no place like home.
Now, for the first time in three years, the full Bristol 4th of July concert series is back home at Independence Park. The free nightly concert series extends more than two weeks and features nearly 30 bands. Spectators can pack a picnic dinner, enjoy an assortment of food vendors, listen to the music and watch the sun set on Bristol harbor – for 14 straight nights.
Nearly 90 bands applied in the first-ever online application process. Nenna, Mjokwoski and the committee members didn’t select the bands from the submitted videos. They made sure they listened to each band live before they selected those who would perform in this year’s series.
“We don’t just take a youtube production, because it’s a production. The goal is to see (the bands) live because live has a whole lot more to say than what you post on Facebook. We work very hard to ensure that we’ve heard all the bands before they are chosen,” said Nenna.
This year’s series features a wide variety of bands including military, cultural and tribute bands.
“The excitement on the bands’ part is over the top because they haven’t been able to play,” said Nenna. “So they are going to all put on a show because where do you go if you play in front of anywhere from 500-5000 people at one time?”
There’s something for children, too. Mrs. Katz and Her Hats will be on site, sitting on a blanket under a tree at independence Park. She will read children’s books nightly at 5:30 p.m. prior to the concerts.
Bring your lawn chair and your appetite. There will be a variety of food vendors on site – more than ever before.
“Anna Motta and Donna Chabot handle the vendors and have worked hard to ensure we have a variety of great stuff. We have 20 spots filled every night,” said Nenna.
The 2022 Fourth of July Concert Series will be held June 19-July 2. The series begins on Father’s Day. For the first time, three local bands will perform on opening day:
THE EAST BAY WIND ENSEMBLE kicks things off on Father’s Day at 3:30 p.m. Organized in 1976, the East Bay Wind Ensemble played its first-ever concert on the Steps of Colt School on July 3, 1976, marking the inaugural performance of the Bristol Fourth of July Concert Series.
TRINITY, a Crosby Stills, Nash and Young tribute band follows at 6:30 p.m..
ANDRE ARESENAULT & FRIENDS wrap up the first night of the 14-night concert series at 7:45 p.m. Spectators can expect Aresenault to perform “02809,” a song he wrote about the Bristol Community.
The 14 days series continues with concerts nightly and concludes Saturday, July 2 when the series wraps up with THE DMB PROJECT a tribute to Dave Mathew’s Band. For the full schedule click here.
The concert series, just like all aspects of Bristol’s 4th of July celebrations, is supported by donations.
“We call it Love in a Bucket,” said Nenna. “We hope that everyone who comes out to the concerts supports us this year.”
Tune in for live coverage of the 237th Bristol 4th of July Parade, part of America’s oldest Independence Day celebration – Monday, July 4th at 10:30am ET on YurView NE (Cox channel 4) and a free live stream on watch.yurview.com.