Friday nights this July in downtown Wilmington will be brimming with live music, topped off by a two-day Rock the Block attraction involving multiple bands presented by the Clinton County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB).
The third annual Rock the Block will feature a dozen bands and guest emcee Goat. Many of the music acts will be held outdoors, free and open to the public, while some will be staged inside The Murphy Theatre requiring tickets.
The two-day rock music event will kick off on Friday evening July 30 on Sugartree Street, which will be closed to vehicle traffic. Start time is 5:30 p.m. with a “pre-party” at Tin Cap where the band Ultra Sound will play. Next at 7 p.m. on the main stage outdoors there is a Bon Jovi tribute called Wanted that will open for the national headliner The Bullet Boys.
While still hanging out on the revitalized Sugartree Street block, an “after-party” takes place at the Escape with the regional band Reeking Havoc to close down the first night.
Start time Saturday July 31 is noon with the event now on both Main and Sugartree Streets downtown, both closed to motor traffic. The outdoor venue will be dotted with food vendors, a beer garden, merchandise vendors, “Freakin’ Gene” and fun.
Outdoor concerts Saturday will include Pink Velvet Krush, a Motley Crue tribute Carnival of Sins, Native Sons, and Every Mother’s Nightmare. Then at 5:30 p.m. the music moves into The Murphy Theatre with Autograph preceding Winger.
The night-time outdoor show starts at 9 p.m. with the extreme AC/DC Dirty Deeds out of Cleveland, followed by the Quiet Riot band to round out the 2021 sounds of Rock the Block.
The Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Susan Valentine-Scott noted Rock the Block started in 2018 as a fundraiser for The Murphy Theatre and that it remains a fundraiser for the historical theatre that’s been shuttered during the pandemic.
The event was very well attended its first and second years, and she expects more of the same this time around. In early June the Murphy shows were almost sold out.
More and more local people are getting involved with making the annual attraction happen, and the CVB now has a partnership with the city which funds a portion of the event costs.
“It’s awesome. You know rock music is not for everybody. But the event in itself — look at the thousands of people who we bring in from near and far. And our hotels are full, and think how much money it brings into our community,” Valentine-Scott said.
A national act has already agreed to perform at the 2022 Rock the Block. While the name won’t be released just yet, it is a band with a big catalogue and a lot of hits in the 1980s and ’90s, said Valentine-Scott.
Much more music
CVB’s popular brand Rock the Block is now being named the presenter of a 2021 summer concert series in downtown Wilmington. The series will mean live music outdoors on Sugartree Street every Friday this July — counting the namesake signature event on the last weekend of July — except for Friday, July 16 which is the week of the Clinton County Fair.
McGuffey Lane kicks off the series Friday, July 2 at 7 p.m.; Turn It Up takes the stage on Friday, July 9 at 7 p.m.; local band Queen City Alibi will play Friday, July 23 at 7 p.m.; and finally there’s the two-day Rock the Block event that starts on Friday, July 30.
The outdoors concert series returns on Friday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. on Sugartree Street with The Avalons; and then the series concludes Friday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. on Main Street with Laine Hardy, the 2019 American Idol winner.
Hardy’s genres include country rock, country, Southern rock and pop rock. The concert is in connection with the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Wilmington College, but the general public can go, too.
Corn Fest returns
The mellow and mouthwatering Clinton County Corn Festival is back this year and will be held on Sept. 10, 11 and 12 at the fairgrounds in Wilmington. There was a record-breaking year for attendance at the Corn Festival in 2019, so don’t be too surprised if something similar happens this September.
At the 2021 Corn Festival, the Convention & Visitors Bureau is presenting American country music band Little Texas. Opening for them will be Johnny Lawless, a popular and well-known outlaw country band.
Valentine-Scott is looking forward to the second half of 2021 as a time of comeback and recovery from the pandemic-impacted 2020 when festivals and concerts were canceled. Even so, the Clinton County Convention & Visitors Bureau was one of the lucky tourism organizations last year, she said, noting there were other CVBs that had to lay somebody off or close altogether.
A key reason for Clinton County’s comparatively better fortunes in travel and tourism last year was local agri-tourism, a draw that kind of came to the forefront here in 2020, she said.
The agri-tourism at local places such as the Stokes Berry Farm and the KB Alpacas farm made it possible for people to socially distance and yet go see farms and flowers, said Valentine-Scott.
Many agri-tourism locations had increased foot traffic and one mentioned that they were up 400 percent compared to 2019.
And agri-tourism should stay a big focus around Clinton County “because that’s who we are,” said the CVB executive director.
So, 2020 brought home to her the lesson that when visitors come here, in addition to the once-a-year events let’s show them all the great ongoing things the county has, such as: Agri-tourism, Cowan Lake State Park, dog shows at the Roberts Centre, The Murphy Theatre, the World Equestrian Center, Cherrybend Pheasant Farm, local shops and restaurants, Wilmington College public talks and theater, three golf courses, paved trails and more.
The CVB has a new home, having moved its offices to 64 W. Main St. above Rome Jewelers. The Loft on Main located there is now managed by the CVB, which subleases the downtown event space for smaller wedding receptions, business meetings, birthday parties, Christmas parties and more.
Circling back to the thought that this year is a time for an organization such as hers to begin rebounding from the pandemic, Valentine-Scott said, “You know, it’s nice to feel like we’re going to thrive again.”