By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
Elements, “the ultimate Earth, Wind & Fire tribute,” will headline the 36th annual Savin Rock Festival, performing a deluge of hits spanning the musical genres of rhythm and blues, soul, funk, disco, pop and rock.
The event, which pays homage to the legacy of Savin Rock Park, will also feature its second beer garden — complete with live music — since the festival began in 1982.
The four-day festival will kick off July 27 in Old Grove Park with a midway of games, rides and music — and, of course, boatloads of mouthwatering seafood.
It will open 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 will perform 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 July 27, 5-9 p.m.; July 28, 5-10 p.m.; and July 29-30, noon-10 p.m.
Marenna Amusements will offer wristbands for unlimited rides for $30, 24 tickets for $24 and 12 tickets for $10. Otherwise, tickets cost $1 each.
On July 28, Turbulence, “Connecticut’s favorite party band,” will perform at 5:15 p.m., followed by the History of Rock & Soul Starring Pauly and the Goodfellas at 8:30 p.m.
Pauly and the Goodfellas, “the ultimate show from the gangstas of soul,” is “North America’s premier musical comedy adventure,” said concert promoter Mark Gravino, owner of EastWest Productions LLC of East Haven.
A number of civic and fraternal organizations and nonprofit groups will have informational booths set up, and the food court will have a row of area vendors 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 July 29, the West Haven High School dance team and the Top Hat Dance Academy will 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, will go on at 4 p.m., followed by “music that’ll move ya’” by Ball in the House at 5:30 p.m.
At 8:30 p.m., Elements will re-create the sounds and sensations of Earth, Wind & Fire, the critically acclaimed ’70s and ’80s group that was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
“Get your feet ready,” Gravino said, “for a 90-minute show anchored by a 12-piece band and laced with such timeless classics as ‘September,’ ‘Can’t Hide Love,’ ‘Boogie Wonderland’ and ‘Fantasy.’”
If it rains, Pauly and the Goodfellas and Elements will play in the Carrigan Intermediate School auditorium, 2 Tetlow St.
On July 30, Simply Dance will perform 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 R&B band Nu Groove at 5:30 p.m.
At 8 p.m., the festival will close with a two-hour concert by The Wayouts, “Connecticut’s freshest and most diversified cover band.”
The West Haven High School Band Parents will hold a craft fair July 28, 4-8 p.m.; July 29, noon-8 p.m.; and July 30, noon-6 p.m.
To help with expenses, the Savin Rock Festival Committee will sell T-shirts and other merchandise in the hospitality tent. It will also charge nonresidents $10 for parking.
Organizers said the parking revenue and beer and merchandise sales will support next year’s festival budget.
The beer garden, which is cash only, will pour three craft, domestic and imported draft beers, as well as a hard cider and a wine. It will serve beer July 28, 5-9 p.m., and July 29-30, 1-9 p.m.
O’Brien applauded the committee’s contributions in planning the 2017 festival.
“The proud heritage of Savin Rock lives on in West Haven thanks to the hard work of the festival committee,” O’Brien said. “All the committee members have devoted their time, talents and energy to ensure another quality festival for the enjoyment of all.”
West Haven’s flagship festival was established by the Chamber of Commerce — initially under the direction of Brian M. Stone, David Gesler and Michael Shiner and thereafter by John L. Perrone and his wife, Mary Perrone — to bring organizations, clubs, businesses and families together for a summer festival that celebrates life in one of America’s oldest coastal communities.
From the dawn of the Savin Rock House hotel in 1838, “the Rock” had long been a resort hub until it was officially incorporated as an amusement park by the Savin Rock Park Co. Inc. on Memorial Day 1925, when it opened to 300,000 visitors and 66,000 automobiles in one spectacular day.
For the next four decades, the popular seaside park captured the hearts and imaginations of “Rock rats” of all ages with its distinctive sights, sounds and smells. “The playground of New England” shuttered Sept. 21, 1966, to pave the way for the Savin Rock Urban Renewal Project.
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.