Wednesday, Dec 13, 2017
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Peach Weekender

PEACH WEEKENDER | COVER STORY

Perfect weekend for music fans, dog owners, and outdoor enthusiasts

UPDATE: The MetroBarks festival scheduled for Swan Creek Preserve Metropark Saturday has been canceled because of the weather conditions forecast for the day. The Toledo Humane Society's Humane Hustle 5K scheduled for that morning is also canceled. MetroBarks will not be rescheduled.

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Fourth of July comfortably sits atop the throne, the king of all summer festivities. But with a music and dog festival and a metropark campout happening this weekend, Independence Day better guard its crown.

Starting Friday afternoon, downtown will teem with people and shake with rhythm as Toledoans gather in Promenade Park for the Northwestern Ohio Music Festival. Themed “Party @ the Park,” the event draws its inspiration from the head-banging, foot-tapping, and dance-provoking Party in the Park concerts from the ’80s and ’90s.

Back then, Toledoans would loosen their ties, kick off their heels, and drive to Promenade Park after work on Fridays to celebrate summer, good friends, and good music. The music festival, intentionally set to begin at 4 p.m. Friday, hopes to achieve the same results.

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“Years ago, Party at the Park was incredibly successful. People came to it after work, and that’s what we want them to do this year too,” said Laurie Cohen, the coordinator for the event.

The Northwestern Ohio Music Festival is not merely a nod to the happy days of the past. It has a personality and excitement of its own. Average White Band, one of the most popular funk and R&B groups of the ’70s, will headline the event. Their instrumental hit, “Pick Up the Pieces,” reached the coveted No. 1 spot on the Billboard Top 100 in 1975, beating out Linda Ronstadt’s iconic “You’re No Good.”

And for those uninterested in boogying to the sensuous beats of Average White Band: Party @ the Park has them covered. Acclaimed southwest blues guitarist Tinsley Ellis, Claudette King, daughter of legend B.B. King, and the Stickers, a country music band that has performed alongside Blake Shelton, will be featured as well. The artists guarantee that the usually quiet downtown will transform into a happening hotspot before the night ends.

“We are not a sit down and listen band,” said Jim Wodarek, drummer for the Stickers. “We like to get crowds going from beginning until the end. We bring a lot of energy. With each song we try to bring a different experience that keeps the audience engaged and entertained.”

But perhaps the most exciting part of the festival is that the proceeds will help fight hunger around the Toledo area. The Toledo Northwestern Ohio Food Bank is organizing the event and using the revenue to fund the Mobile Market Initiative. The Mobile Market is like a grocery store on wheels. These Food Bank operated vehicles will travel to food deserts — areas lacking healthy produce — and provide free fresh fruits and vegetables to those in need. Food deserts are most commonly located in areas that lack nearby stores.

“The Mobile Market will take out any barriers that people have to finding healthy food,” said Barbara Hofstetter, director of operations for the Toledo Northwestern Ohio Food Bank.

People can also use their SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) — formerly called the Food Stamps program — to purchase non-perishable items from the Mobile Markets.

Many of the musical acts are excited to be performing for the Food Bank. “Music is a powerful art, and to put it to work to help a great cause is the best reward for an artist,” Wodarek said.

Attendees can also help at the concert by bringing five non-perishable items in exchange for a free soft drink or water. The food stuffs will be distributed to food insecure people in Northwestern Ohio after the concert.

With good music coupled with a good cause, the music festival promises to bring back the fun and fellowship of past Party in the Parks.

“We have a lot of great acts, a lot of great music. Friends and family can enjoy the evening and benefit the community at the same time. It really doesn’t get much better than that,” Hofstetter said.

Tickets are $15 per person, $10 for veterans, and free for children younger than  10.

● While beats will be heard from downtown on Friday, barks will sound off at 9 a.m. Saturday for the 12th annual MetroBarks Festival.

Owners and their dogs will convene in the Swan Creek Preserve for canine-themed fun. With an attendance of 2,000 last year, Metrobarks assuredly will be the destination for Toledo’s dogs.

“A cat won’t want to be by Swan Creek that badly,” joked Scott Carpenter, director of public relations for Toledo’s Metroparks.

The festival was inspired by the simple realization that people enjoy walking their dogs. Any day of the week, one only has to search around a few street corners to see someone out and about with their canine friend. Free to the public, MetroBarks takes the loving relationship between human and dog to another entertaining and quirky level.

Past attendees especially enjoyed the MetroBarks dog competitions. This year, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the festival will feature a pet-person look alike and a best dog to human kiss contest. Awards will also be presented to the ugliest dog and to the canine with the best costume.

Expect dogs that look like Abraham Lincoln or Batman to be present.

When not watching or participating in contests, people can consider adopting a dog from Planned Pethood, having their dog microchipped by Lucas County Canine Care and Control for a reduced price, or simply taking a picture with their dog at one of the photo booths.

But the the main event of MetroBarks will by the Flying Houndz Dog Show. Featured on Good Morning America, the Today Show, and at numerous sporting events, the Flying Houndz perform a variety of frisbee-related tricks and acrobatic stunts with their trainers, Jeff and Misty Wright.

● But amidst the beats and barks, 80 families will leave the city scape and immerse themselves in nature Saturday afternoon and night as part of the Great American Backyard Campout.

Sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and coordinated by Metroparks of the Toledo Area, the campout allows registered families to camp in either Pearson or Side Cut Metropark. Additionally, the NWF will donate a dollar for every camper who participates.

“Those are two of our most popular parks. The beauty of the event is that you normally can’t camp in those Metroparks. It’s a brand new experience,” Carpenter said.

Toledoans were obviously taken with the opportunity. Registration for the event opened in April and was completely closed by the end of May.

“We didn’t do a whole lot of promotion, and it still filled up quickly,” Carpenter said. “It is the first time we have ever done something like this, but given the excitement, we will definitely look at doing it again.”

For those still looking to conclude their weekend in the green grasp of nature, camping opportunities are available at Oak Opening Preserve, Farnsworth, and Wireglass Lake.

Contact Anthony Kayruz at akayruz@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.

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