With a ban on mass gatherings due to the coronavirus, Luzerne County is replacing its concerts along the Susquehanna River with on-the-road performances from a moving flatbed truck.
Announced Monday, the “Rockin’ the County” concerts will feature local bands that pass through five neighborhoods between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. so residents can enjoy the music from their porches.
• July 10, Wilkes-Barre, Dustin Douglas and the Electric Gentlemen
• July 17, Hazleton, Indigo Moon Brass Band
• July 24, Pittston, The Mule Team
• July 31, Nanticoke, The Music of Woodstock with The Husty Brothers and Ellie Rose
• Aug. 7, Kingston/Forty Fort, Joe Nardone’s Rockology Americans
The routes and other additional information will be posted at www.VisitLuzerneCounty.com.
County tourism head Theodore Wampole wanted to make up for cancellation of the free “Rockin’ the River” concerts that drew thousands to the county-owned River Common recreation area along the river near the county courthouse in Wilkes-Barre last year.
County officials planned to make Rockin’ the River an annual event due to the success of the first series last year, but they announced in April the 2020 concerts would not be held due to the pandemic.
The idea for moving concerts hit Wampole a few weeks ago while he was sitting on his front porch, a cigar in one hand and a locally made SBC beer in the other, listening to John Prine’s “It’s a Big Old Goofy World” on his Pandora. He contemplated parades now frequently held for essential coronavirus workers, high school graduates and others during the pandemic.
“I thought, what if we got a flatbed and took the music to the community?” Wampole, executive director of the county Convention and Visitors Bureau, said during Monday’s announcement at the River Common.
Wampole said he received immediate support from county Manager C. David Pedri and Will Beekman, general manager of the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Township. Beekman helped secure the bands.
Describing the traveling concert as a “phenomenal idea,” Pedri said the bands will move at “parade speed.” He encouraged residents to relax in front of their homes for a “socially distanced enjoyable time.”
“Hasn’t everybody had enough of doing the same things over and over again? I can’t watch Netflix anymore,” Pedri said.
He views the concerts as a reward for residents and the sacrifices they made to bring down county coronavirus cases.
“This is our opportunity to give back,” he said.
Speaking during Monday’s announcement, Forty Fort Mayor Andy Tuzinski said he’s confident the traveling concert will be a success and commended the county tourism bureau for “thinking outside the box.”
“This is going to be a great event for people to see how great it is to live right here in Luzerne County every day,” Tuzinski said.
While the pandemic has hurt many, some good came out of it, Tuzinski said.
Spending more time at home has prompted many to reconnect with their neighbors and family members, he said. He’s also noticed more people sprucing up their residences.
“Driving around my town, it’s very nice to see the pride coming back onto front porches,” Tuzinski said.
Pittston Mayor Michael Lombardo said everyone is aware of the serious negative impact the crisis has had on many. The concert series is a “creative and progressive” way to get people’s minds off the pandemic-prompted changes, he said.
Concurring with Tuzinski, Lombardo said municipalities and communities have been interacting more during the pandemic and have “never been closer.”
“In a time when we’re stepping apart from one another, we’re also getting back together,” Lombardo said.
Rockin’ the County is sponsored and presented by DiscoverNEPA, an online initiative showcasing the region’s quality of life that had been launched by Mericle Development Corp. last year, according to Wampole.
Wampole said several other entities have provided in-kind contributions, including the Times Leader Media Group. If there are any remaining costs, which Wampole does not expect, they would be covered by the tourism bureau and not the county’s general fund operating budget, he said.
Residents on the concert route are asked to follow social distancing and other public health guidelines, the county said.
“We’ll honor all that and still bring entertainment to the people of Luzerne County,” Wampole said.