Steve Allen and Madonna Van Fossen in front of The Randy Brock Group at the concert in the park in downtown Oxford.Toddlers romped in the grass while parents and seniors lounged in lawn chairs listening to the The Randy Brock Group jam out classic covers by Creedence Clearwater Revival and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
The concert kicked off the Hot Blues and BBQ event taking place this weekend, which is put on by the Detroit Blues Society, and is sponsored by the Oxford Downtown Development Authority and The Oakland Press. This was one of my liveliest volunteer gigs yet.
I arrived at the DDA office at 6 p.m. and met the Director Madonna Van Fossen. She handed me some set-up materials and I walked over to the park.
Madonna is a free spirit — a barefoot free spirit. Walking around the office and dancing in the park, people gravitate toward her. With the economy in the toilet, it's important for leaders to remain optimistic and engage with the public, and Madonna does just that — all while providing free entertainment.
In comparison, I felt like a semi-pill. I loved the band, but I think I was just too tired to pull out my air guitar and rock 'n' roll.
I stepped it up a bit later as I "passed the bucket" seeking donations.
"How is everyone doing tonight? Are you enjoying the concert?" was my standard line. After I told them about the rest of the weekend festivities, I followed with, "Would you like to make a donation to help offset the cost of the event?"
Then if they hesitated, "Seriously, if I don't bring back enough money, they beat me."
Most people threw me a buck or some change. Some even dropped in a five. But even with all of my tactics, a tenured volunteer brought back a bucket filled deeper with green. The competition was fun, but the donations really are appreciated.
Madonna noted that there are at least thirty DDA volunteers, including Robin DiMeglio and Cindy Stoll. The mastermind behind choosing the bands is Steve Allen.
Dressed in Crocs, olive cargo shorts and a black polo, Steve is a blues and rock enthusiast. I have to say, I know nothing about modern-day blues artists. Sure, I've listened to the classics like Billie Holiday, Etta James and Muddy Waters, but I know nothing about groups that are playing now. I'm bummed I'll miss out on this weekend's events, but I hope it's successful.
Despite my lack of musical knowledge, Steve was gracious. He's served on multiple boards and committees within Oxford, and has a deep love for his community.
"I love volunteerism," he said, and it shows.
For more information on Hot Blues and BBQ visit www.hotbluesandbbq.com. For more information on the Oxford DDA events or more ways to get involved, visit www.downtownoxford.org.
Check out the concerts this weekend from 7 to 10:30 p.m. Friday at Centennial Park and noon to 12:30 a.m. Saturday at Scripter Park.