De Soto Larry Dean and the Stranger Creek Band have played venues as varied as a Burger King dining room and county fairs, but the band's front man said its performance tonight Friday would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The band will be the opening act for the De Soto Chamber of Commerce Blues and BBQ that starts at 6 p.m. today and continues Saturday. The event also marks the official opening of De Soto Riverfest Park.
"It's quite and honor," Inman said of being the first performers on the park's stage. "I've looked it over a time or two. I think it's going to be pretty nice. De Soto needs a little outdoor arena like that for concerts during the summer. I think it will be a good asset to the community."
The asset the De Soto City Council hoped it would get when it approved construction of the $675,000 first-phase of Riverfest Park, 33630 79th St., last year was a destination attraction that would give a bump to the city's retail economy.
The park was built on the Kansas River just west of De Soto's historic core. Because of concerns about flooding, the parks permanent structures - most to be built in two later phases that will add shelters and playground and an RV park - will be above ground level to withstand flood waters.
De Soto Chamber of Commerce executive director Sara Ritter is predicting attendance of about 1,000 tonight and 2,000 for Saturday.
"That's a safe estimate, based on the number of calls we've been getting," she said. "We've had a lot of interest from Lawrence."
That could be because Saturday's feature act is Lawrence-based blues artist Kelley Hunt. A former sideman in her band, Dan Bliss, will play tonight.
Ritter recommended those attending bring a lawn chair or blankets as there is now seating at the park.
The event is a merger of two popular chamber annual fundraisers, a blues concert introduced in 2006 and the Cookin' on the Kaw barbecue contest the chamber inherited last year when it grew too big for its organizer Darrel Zimmerman and his Zimmerman Kill Creek Farm.
The barbecue contest drew its limit of 49 teams, Ritter said. Scheduled a week after the American Royal, the De Soto contest is the first opportunity teams have to start earning points in the new contest year.
Starting a 6 tonight, barbecue lovers can help select the contest's people's choice award winner. A $5 ticket will purchase a plate of 10 samples.
Six local organizations and restaurants will also be offering food both days and a beer garden will be available.
Parking is available at the park but is not expected to be sufficient for the crowds. Offsite parking with shuttle service will be available this evening at De Soto City Hall, 32905 W. 84th Street, and Starside Elementary School, 35400 W. 91st, and Saturday at City Hall and Lexington Trails Middle School, 8800 Penner Ave.
"Parking will be well-marked, so people shouldn't have any trouble finding them," Ritter said.
Also playing tonight will be Ann Zimmerman, a Salina soloist who mixes blues with Celtic, bluegrass and folk tunes, Bliss and the De Soto band Bluzville will wrap up the evening.
Tickets for tonight's concert are $5.
Prices in increase to $10 with the music provided by blues soloist John Paul Drum, swing blues band Grand Marquis and Kelley Hunt.
Saturday will conclude with a fireworks show to celebrate the park's opening.