For those hoping the summer sights and sounds would return to Alburtis Park, we have one word for you: bingo!
Bingo will be back. So will the bands. And, hopefully, so will the summer fun.
Yes, Alburtis Park will see its 88th season despite some uncertainty, perhaps on the parts of some, after an abrupt closing Sept. 13. Former park operator Jack Stull and the Alburtis Fire Company, which owns the park, had a parting of the ways that shortened the season and left an uncertain future.
But John Havassy, a fire company social club member and participant in country band Banned from the Ranch, said a committee was formed, and they knew the park would re-open as far back as October.
"It wasn't a real threat," he said of the possibility that the park would close for good. "We decided that we needed to continue on."
The park will open at noon on May 19, beginning with bingo and food. Five bands will play between 3 and 8 p.m. to kick off opening day. Those will be Scott Marshall, Banned from the Ranch, the Country Rhythm Band, Clayton Moore and Texas Fever.
Traditional and modern country will continue to dominate the music lineup and will be featured on Sundays and most holidays. However, a new feature of the park will be a mix of genres on Saturdays.
Music types will vary from polkas, blues, bluegrass, oldies and classic rock. The first rock band, yet to be finalized, in the park's history is scheduled to play on Memorial Day, Havassy said.
Free admission will return to the park, he added. And, there will be no parking fee.
There had been no admission fee for the first 86 years of the park. Stull said he was successful in better covering the operating expenses last year by adding a $3 admission in his last year as operator.
Havassy said some other operational changes have been made. He will operate the food concessions as an individual, paying rent to the fire company and insurances for himself and the grounds. He also will schedule the musical acts. The fire company social club will sell beer outside as well as inside. Firefighters will sell waffles and ice cream.
"We're really working together," he said. And he added, "We really got a lot of support from the music community and the community at-large."
For example, Ed Snyder of the Country Rhythm Band is a co-committee member.
Nonprofit organizations will be offered the chance to display their services provided and offer a fundraiser, Havassy said.
A pig roast will be served the first Saturday of each month, he said. Organizers also will try offering a band performances outside some Saturdays from 4-8 p.m. and another band inside from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Drive by the park today and you wouldn't know there's a movement afoot. Facilities are still padlocked, as they were after the split with Stull. But the park's website has been revived, promising the re-opening and a listing of musical acts and other details yet to come.
However, he said it will soon be time to advertise the season's opening. They also will be working to repair the bandstand.
Havassy is aware that Stull, and at least the park's manager before him, had financial operating difficulties. The slow economy continues as well.
"I relish the challenge," he said. "I spent a couple of years there. I think it's a great place to play and a great thing that they offer."
He believes the bingo, food and beer sales can pay to keep the dying tradition of a community park with music alive. And, he said, that next to Nashville, it's the oldest such venue going.
"It's definitely a piece of tradition," he said. "It's a great place to be on stage and look out and see those people listening and having fun under the oak trees."
Just bring a chair, if you care to sit and enjoy the show.
Havassy said more committee members are welcome. The park also will be in need of volunteers and some positions that will pay the minimum wage. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire.