By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
The 36th annual Savin Rock Festival starts tonight in Old Grove Park with four days of games, food, rides and entertainment.
The event, which pays homage to the legacy of Savin Rock Park, features its second beer garden — complete with live music — since the festival began in 1982.
It kicks off at 5 p.m. with welcoming remarks from Mayor Edward M. O’Brien and the national anthem sung by Caitlin Morrissey.
Santana tribute group Sacred Fire performs at 5:15 p.m., followed by party rock band The RumRunners at 7:15 p.m.
The festival, sponsored by the University of New Haven, is today, 5-9 p.m.; Friday, 5-10 p.m.; and Saturday-Sunday, noon-10 p.m.
Marenna Amusements is offering wristbands for unlimited rides for $30, 24 tickets for $24 and 12 tickets for $10. Otherwise, tickets cost $1 each.
On Friday, Turbulence, “Connecticut’s favorite party band,” opens at 5:15 p.m., followed by the History of Rock & Soul Starring Pauly and the Goodfellas at 8:30 p.m.
Local organizations are setting up informational booths, and the food court is serving up the fare — fried seafood, split hot dogs, frozen custard — that catapulted old Savin Rock to notoriety as “the Coney Island of Connecticut.”
On Saturday, the West Haven High School dance team and the Top Hat Dance Academy perform at noon and 12:15 p.m., respectively, followed by alternative rock group Clockwork at 1 p.m. and country cover band Boondocks at 2:30 p.m.
Rubber City, powered by a horn section that rivals such bands as Chicago and Tower of Power, goes on at 4 p.m., followed by “music that’ll move ya” by Ball in the House at 5:30 p.m.
Elements, anchored by a 12-piece band, start at 8:30 p.m., performing a 90-minute set of Earth, Wind & Fire hits, including “September,” “Can’t Hide Love,” “Boogie Wonderland” and “Fantasy.”
If it rains, Pauly and the Goodfellas and Elements are set to play in the Carrigan Intermediate School auditorium, 2 Tetlow St.
On Sunday, Simply Dance is on at noon, followed by classic rock band Stratus at 1 p.m., oldies group Vinnie Carr at 2:30 p.m., pop rock group Sister Funk at 4 p.m. and rhythm and blues band Nu Groove at 5:30 p.m.
At 8 p.m., the festival closes with a two-hour concert by The Wayouts, “Connecticut’s freshest and most diversified cover band.”
The West Haven High School Band Parents is holding a craft fair Friday, 4-8 p.m.; Saturday, noon-8 p.m.; and Sunday, noon-6 p.m.
To help with expenses, the Savin Rock Festival Committee is selling T-shirts and other merchandise in the hospitality tent. It is also charging nonresidents $10 for parking.
Organizers said the parking revenue and beer and merchandise sales are supporting next year’s festival budget.
The cash-only beer garden is pouring three craft, domestic and imported draft beers, as well as a hard cider and a wine. It is serving beer Friday, 5-9 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday, 1-9 p.m.
Attendees are reminded that a city ordinance prohibits domestic animals on certain parks, beaches or recreation areas. The fine is $50 per offense.
Also, per the Police Department, backpacks, bicycles and glass containers are prohibited, and coolers are subject to search.