Gazebo Nights ready to rock Normal Park
Gazebo Nights in Normal Park returns for a fourth year with a lineup of mostly new bands to the concert series. Mike Mensching of MGM Talent Productions is bringing in some of the area’s top cover bands for seven weeks of Gazebo Nights this summer. The theme this year is “Mench’s Buddies & Bands,” as all the performers have a long history with Mensching. He’s been promoting shows for many years and works with up to 100 bands.
“I’ve worked with some of them over 30 years,” Mike said.
Mensching and his partner, Karen Karow, both of Merrill, conceived Gazebo Nights shortly after the Gazebo was constructed in Normal Park in 2011 with a donation from Lydia Bauman as a home for the Merrill City Band.
They started with “100 posters and word of mouth,” Mike said. Within 10 days of getting the idea, the pair had Gazebo Nights well on its way to reality.
In that first year, 2012, they put on four concerts, ending with a show by Copper Box that drew 600 people. For the second year, the series was stretched to seven weeks.
Last year, the concerts averaged 350-400 attendees and perennial favorite Copper Box drew about 800.
With Gazebo Nights, Mensching and Karow wanted to provide a new event for the Merrill community.
“This is good family fun,” Mike said. “We’re trying to offer a good night out for families.”
Local businesses help by sponsoring the bands and non-profit groups raise funds by selling food and beverages at the park.
“It’s good for the community,” Karen said. “It’s all about Merrill.”
The Merrill Chamber of Commerce and all the local sponsors make the concert series possible, Mike said.
“We couldn’t do it without the Chamber and the rest of our sponsors,” he said.
This year, Mike and Karen have been joined in organizing the event by Terri Marten and Ike Mattson.
The public’s response to the concert series has been very positive, Karen said.
“People are always asking when is (Gazebo Nights) going to start,” she said. “We start hearing that in May.”
The Thursday night concerts will kick off July 9 with the acoustic variety and original music of Northwoods troubador Tuck Pence, sponsored by park City Credit Union.
Veteran bluesman Howard “Guitar” Luedtke and the Blue Max Mand will bring their rockin’ Delta blues to the Gazebo on July 16, sponsored by Reindl Printing, Chip’s and River Valley Bank.
Gazebo Nights will take a week off during the Lincoln County Fair and return on July 30 with Wisconsin Area Music Industry (WAMI) award winning classic rock band Consult the Briefcase, sponsored by One Way Collision, Merrill Millwork and Lincoln Community Bank.
On Aug. 6, the gazebo will be rocking to the high energy show of Crystal & the Commotions, sponsored by BMO Harris Bank, Courtside Furniture and Johnson Pharmacy & Gifts.
Classic rockers Bobby Evans & the Alimony Band will be featured on Aug. 13, sponsored by Merrill Federal Savings & Loan and Brickner’s Park City.
The six-piece country band Stray Pony will take the stage on Aug. 20, sponsored by Merrill Police Association and Ministry Health Care.
The ever-eclectic Copper Box, with their own blend of rock, country, zydeco and polka, will close our Gazebo Nights on Aug. 27 for the fourth year in a row. Church Mutual Insurance will once again sponsor the Copper Box show.
The concerts are held from 6-8 p.m. Concert-goers are encouraged to bring their coolers and lawn chairs. Food and beverage vendors will be on site, including HAVEN, Merrill Band Boosters and Relay for Life.
The rain location will be at Les & Jim’s Lincoln Lanes, two blocks north or Normal Park on Center Avenue. No carry-ins are allowed at Les & JIm’s.