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Local

Newton Fest 2019: ‘Biggest year yet’

Newton Fest is here to stay, Nelson finale fills Maytag Park

A chance to introduce a full-fledged rock concert was on Jessica Lowe Vokes’ bucket list for a long time.

Well … check!

Sharing the stage alongside the American rock band Nelson, consisting of twin brothers Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, Lowe Vokes was elated to announce the Saturday evening live music show in Maytag Park, the crescendo to a record breaking Newton Fest that attracted, what she thinks, about 1,000 people to the Fred Maytag Bowl.

Whether they were sprawling out on blankets or sitting comfortably in lawn chairs or dancing near the edge of the stage, Newton Fest guests fit themselves wherever they needed to be to enjoy the live performance by the blond-haired, third generation rockers.

“This was our biggest year yet and definitely the highest attended,” Lowe Vokes, co-chair of Newton Fest, said. “In past years we’d have a lull of time in the afternoon, and this was just a solid group of people the entire day.”

Now in its fifth year, Newton Fest packed its three-day schedule with a multitude of free, family activities set up all across town to celebrate and showcase the community in all its glory.

“It’s just a really good feeling to know that something you worked so hard on is really helping people have a great time,” Lowe Vokes said. “It was just a really proud moment to realize everything came together and just remembering what the first year was like. The first year was awesome. The second year was awesome. And it’s just gotten better. The fifth year is like, wow, look at what we’ve done the past five years.”

The warm summer forecast afforded a perfect backdrop for visitors to venture through the downtown district, Legacy Plaza and Legacy Commons, Newton schools, Westwood Golf Course, Maytag Park and several businesses scattered around the area. Of course, ending the festivities was the much awaited Nelson concert.

Performing “An Evening with the Nelsons” — a compilation of work by Nelson and father Ricky Nelson, as well as commentary and insights into their lives as grandsons to Ozzie and Harriet Nelson and the experiences they’ve had in the music industry — Matthew and Gunnar connected to the Iowa crowd almost instantly in between songs.

They divulged their Iowa roots, admitted their love of Casey’s breakfast pizza and said they know to live as far away from hog farms as possible. Starting off strong with harmonizing rock tunes from their own catalog set an energetic tone for the Newton crowd.

After Matthew and Gunnar transitioned to their father’s old rock ’n’ roll and country tunes, the crowd was hooked again, despite the shift in style and sound. The day after the concert, Lowe Vokes was still in a daze from the weekend entertainment, which she said was a “collaborative effort” by volunteers, community members and local organizations donating their time.

Newton Fest was driven primarily by a core group of volunteers, in addition to Lowe Vokes, including: Danielle Rogers, community marketing manager for the City of Newton; Graham Sullivan, executive director of Newton Main Street; and Amanda Price, executive director of the Greater Newton Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s not done by one person or four people. It’s literally done by dozens of volunteers and organizations,” Lowe Vokes said. “And that’s what we were hoping for in the beginning was to really make it a community event, a community effort. The collaboration this year was off the charts. I’m so proud of what we were able to pull off.”

While Nelson certainly drew one of the biggest crowds of the night, Newton Fest had plenty more high numbers to report. The Eric Michaels magic show Thursday evening attracted 250 in attendance; likewise, the free showing of “The Wizard of Oz” that very same day at Capitol II Theatre brought 260 people to the renovated downtown Newton movie theater.

All barbecue cook-off samples were gone in 15 minutes. A record breaking 118 cars registered for the car show. The Friday free swim at Maytag Pool brought 350 people through the doors.

Lowe Vokes said the wife of former child actor Butch Patrick, a special guest of Greater Newton Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Cool Cars” Car Show and former child actor of the TV series “The Munsters,” gave a glowing review of Newton Fest. Activity was nearly nonstop during Newton Fest. Support for the event certainly reached a high point.

Rogers added, “I think (it) was a great success for Newton Fest. I think it was one for the books. In the five years we’ve been doing it we’ve had something for everyone, whether you liked music, you liked art, you wanted to check out some local vendors or take in a rock concert at the Bowl. There was something for everyone, which was our goal all along.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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