By WILL BRUMLEVE
GIBSON CITY – Bill Kirby expects a large crowd – hopefully up to 3,000 people – to be in downtown Gibson City on Saturday night for live music, food and maybe- be a beer or two.
Last year’s inaugural Summer Bash, sponsored by Gibson Area Hospital & Health Services, drew a crowd of about 1,500 people, according to Kirby, director of employee and community events at the hospital. However, turnout for last year’s event — featuring the Warrant concert headliner — could have been much higher had the event been better marketed and promoted, Kirby noted.
With a lot more publicity going on ahead of the second annual Summer Bash – scheduled for Saturday, August 20 – Kirby expects it can attract perhaps double the attendance at the inaugural event. Headlining the Night Ranger concert, an 80s rock band, and the first Eliminator concert, a ZZ Top tribute band, the second annual event was advertised on radio stations and in newspapers across the country. region, while also being advertised on the hospital’s and city’s Facebook. pages.
“We’re 100% spreading the word,” Kirby said. “We put it there. We want people here. … We try to get bigger and better every year.
The Summer Bash kicks off downtown on Sangamon Avenue around 5 p.m. when the food trucks and beer tent open. Around 7:30 p.m., Eliminator will perform the hits of ZZ Top on a stage next to City Hall before Night Ranger begins performing around 8:30 or 9 p.m., Kirby said.
General admission is free. Party passes, which cost $30 each, are available for purchase at www.gahhssummerbash.com.
Kirby said the party pit is close to the stage and will include its own beer-selling area, as well as port-a-potties.
“It’s so you don’t have to go in and out, in and out, all the time,” Kirby said. “I hope to put as much as I can into this area to make it legit.”
For those not in the party pit, there will be a beer tent in the Farmers Market parking lot. The Gibson City Harvest Fest Committee will be selling drinks there as a fundraiser for the annual Harvest Fest. Downtown bars, including Burgers & Beer and American Legion Post #568, will also be open.
A variety of food vendors will also be on site, including Pioletti’s Tasting Room, Jimmy John’s (sub sandwiches), Come Get This (burgers and hot dogs), Gill Street Eats (tacos and sandwiches), Varela Tacos and Flower & Fire Pizza. Additionally, non-profit organizations such as the Gibson City Lions Club and the Gibson City Restoration Association will cook and sell pulled pork sandwiches and walking tacos, respectively.
“We have everything,” Kirby said.
As for bands performing, Kirby, 51, said Night Ranger was hugely popular in his youth, while Chicago-based Eliminator are among the top tribute bands in the country.
“There was a TV station that had a tribute band contest, and if I remember correctly, (Eliminator was voted) one of the top five in the nation for tribute bands,” Kirby said. “They sound and look (like ZZ Top). They are legit and they sound fantastic.
“And Night Ranger, I’m told, always puts on a great show. They’re rock legends. They’ve been around a long time, just churning out great music. I mean, everyone knows (the song ) ‘Sister Christian’, but they hit after…. It’s going to be a fantastic night.
The hospital worked with Grandstand Concerts to secure both bands. The cost of each Summer Bash concert is approximately $100,000, with the hospital funding most of the cost.
“The hospital probably sponsors about 90 percent,” Kirby said, “but we get other sponsors and ask for other sponsors. For example, our ‘platinum’ sponsors (who donated over $2,000 $) are The Fashion Shop, Bradbury Auto Sales and Illini Radio Group.”
Kirby said the hospital wasn’t making money from the event – and making money was never the goal. Rather, the event is being held as a way to show appreciation to the community of Gibson City, which has endured a difficult time over the past year with a devastating downtown fire on July 4, the untimely death of a high school student in May, and a historic flash flood last August – all in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people have helped the city get through this – including health care workers, police, firefighters, teachers and many more – and Saturday’s event is for them.
“It’s a ‘thank you’ to everyone,” Kirby said. “It’s a ‘thank you’ to the hospital staff, of course, but it’s also an appreciation for everyone. … It’s a “thank you” to everyone for getting to this side of the pandemic, even though we’re not done yet.
In recognition of their efforts, Gibson area hospital employees will have the opportunity to purchase holiday passes at a discount, Kirby noted. Last year, hospital workers received free passes.
An absurd third
Prior to the Summer Bash, an “Absurd One-Third” event will take place downtown starting at 3:30 p.m.
The amount to be covered totals a third of a mile, with participants starting at Horsch Radish for a drink before heading to Heartland Bank for another and then Firkin Bar for a third.
Drinks are provided and attendance is free, but advance registration is required and can be arranged by contacting Kirby at 217-278-9414 before Saturday.
“There’s no cost,” Kirby said. “All we do is ask for donations. We want to donate to the Gibson City Volunteer Fire Department. After all the work they did with the Fourth fire, we just thought we’d try and raise some money for them.
The walk will have a ’70s theme, Kirby said. Attendees are encouraged to dress in 70s attire, and there will be 70s music played throughout.
The event is expected to last about an hour, Kirby said, which means it should end around 4:30 p.m. just before the Summer Bash begins.