When comparing cities, towns, and the like, often times people jump to conclusions or ideas of what kind of people live there and what they are capable of. As there are pros and cons of each, and of the folks that live in them, it appears that after the last year and a half many misconceptions were exactly that…misconceptions. The yearn for connection, music, and the arts have been a huge piece of the puzzle of local humanity and togetherness. The small town of Sauk Rapids saw this need and took it upon themselves to create such a place that would cater to that piece of the puzzle. This is where Rock the Riverside was born.
The city of Sauk Rapids created a beautiful community/ event center alongside the Mississippi at Southside Park and what better way to share it with the community than to have a free concert series for ten weeks?! That is exactly what they did. Every Thursday this past summer, from July 1st until September 2nd, the shores of the Mississippi were echoed upon with energetic tunes and beats of locally inspired bands. There was only one cancellation due to inclement weather. The shows would start with an opening musical act (usually acoustic) at 5:30 PM followed by the headlining band at 7 until 9:30 PM. All ages were welcome as was the music that appealed to the range of ages. Since this was just the beginning, there were just a few vendors; including the food truck (from Old Capital Tavern, a local bar and restaurant, located downtown Sauk Rapids), which served alcohol and one of the local favorites: lobster mac-n-cheese! There were also several sponsored parties inside of the event center throughout the Rock the Riverside. This venue definitely brought the community together and musicians alike.
During the last night of Rock the Riverside I had the opportunity to speak with a couple members of Radio Nation. I asked them what they thought about the new venue and about their experience with Rock the Riverside. I spoke with Ashley (the female lead vocalist) and Dave (the lead guitarist). With just a few minutes to spare, they shared with me that they LOVED the stage and venue. Dave said it was “…So awesome to have so many local bands playing on this stage….Ross (the city planner) made this so much about local music and local musicians.” Dave also mentioned that each band had a member, if not all, whom was tied to the local community and that there’s a definite connection . According to Ashley, “This type of venue is like nothing I’ve ever played at…I think it’s absolutely fantastic that they built this.” I asked her what I could share from her that no one could find on their band’s website or online and she shared that she appreciated the opportunity to inspire people to pursue their passions…that it is NEVER too late to do so. As a mother of two and full-time worker, she couldn’t emphasize this enough. Her statement brings about the core of what is a basis of community: to inspire each other. That is what happened with the Rock the Riverside and the venue that held it. Until next summer, may the music, arts, and humanity of the local communities we share be ever- present and may this be just the beginning of something greater than ever expected.