Image of Elton John Tribute Band Member

Photographed by Ivan Sorensen.

Scenes of Summer

April, 2022

Lancaster Festival’s headlining acts revealed, record-breaking attendance expected

By Addie Hedges | For The Post

The 37th annual Lancaster Festival will take place July 21 through 30 and is set to host musicians Lady A, Rick Springfield, an Elton John tribute band and more than 60 other events during the 10-day celebration.

Rick Springfield, known for his hit song “Jessie’s Girl,” will perform Saturday, July 23; the Elton John Tribute band, led by Elton Rohn, will perform Wednesday, July 27, and Lady A will act as the festival’s ‘grand finale’ on Saturday, July 30.

The festival’s headlining performances will take place at the Wendel Concert Stage, an outdoor amphitheater behind Ohio University’s Lancaster campus. Other events such as the Lancaster Festival Orchestra’s opening night performance and four “Cafe Concerts” will take place at St. Mary’s Church and the Cheers Chalet in Lancaster, respectively.

The full schedule for the festival has been released, and tickets are available to be purchased through the Lancaster Festival’s website. There are a total of 70 events, only 14 of which require tickets. Ticket pricings vary, but adults can attend the concerts for no more than $45.

Following past year’s modified versions of the festival due to COVID-19, this year’s festival has garnered a higher level of excitement from the community, Deb Connell, executive director of the Lancaster Festival, said.

“There is definitely an electricity in the air surrounding this year's festival that we haven't felt before,” Connell said. “Part of that I do think is just because people are really excited to be together again. The restrictions that we've had on us have been lifted, we were able to do performances indoors again … but I think that coupled with this elevated level of talent that we're bringing in is just making it electric around here.”

The festival’s board of directors is anticipating sold-out shows and an overwhelming amount of support for this year’s headlining performers. To afford acts like Lady A and Rick Springfield, the board increased its spending budget.

“We were able to reach out to artists that not only were a great fit for the festival, but were at a higher level as far as fees,” Connell said. “We've done that through some very careful budgeting over the past couple of years and we thought, with being able to bring back a full festival post-pandemic, that this was the best year for us to step forward on our artistic selection.”

The festival’s budget consists of profits from past years’ festivals and donations from individual donors and local and national businesses, Connell said.

One of the local donors is the Cameo League, established in 1985, which has donated thousands of dollars to the Lancaster Festival. Due-paying members work to sponsor fundraisers like The Queen of the Lake fundraiser, which was a one-night excursion on Buckeye Lake in September.

Members of the Cameo League also act as host families for visiting musicians, former Cameo League president, Lynn Barboza, said. There are typically 25 host families each year.

“People come from all over the country, and they come for these two weeks,” Barboza said. “Hosting is lovely; you get to know these guys, they have their own parties with the musicians … we have a brunch with all of them … it makes it really nice for them to have a place to go to get to practices easy.”

Image of Elton John Impersonator

Aside from volunteering as hosts, Lancaster community members are also able to help by volunteering as Lancaster Festival staff. This year, there are about 400 volunteers, Connell said.

“We cannot do what we do without them, they are the true rock stars of the Lancaster Festival,” Connell said. “Other communities can't get a festival like this off the ground because they don't have the volunteers in their community like we have here.”

Many of the volunteers return year after year to help plan and organize the festivals’ events. Susan Roush started volunteering in 2015 after she retired and has enjoyed seeing the changes each year brings.

“It's amazing to me how (the festival) has grown over the years,” Roush said. “The interest is there and its gotten bigger and bigger. Now we need to get younger people involved but … (current volunteers) will do their best. It'll be a zoo and the sheer cost of the two artists that are so big, I just feel like ‘Okay, we better be prepared.’”

Ron Camilleri, also known as Elton Rohn of the Elton John tribute band from Toronto, Canada, is excited to perform for the first time in Ohio this summer, after originally booking the performance in Lancaster two years ago. Border-crossing restrictions due to COVID-19 prevented the band from performing at last year’s festival, Camilleri said.

“There's nothing more exciting for us than to be able to go into a new place where people haven't seen us,” Camilleri said. “We know what we can do; we know that when we get on a stage and we get in front of people we know that there's going to be this big wow-factor like ‘Oh my God, they sound like Elton John.’”

The audience of the Elton Rohn performance can expect to hear some of John’s most popular songs like “Rocketman,” “Your Song,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Crocodile Rock.” Many of the songs will be accompanied by the string section of the Lancaster Festival Orchestra, Camilleri said.

As the festival dates near, community excitement is expected to continue to grow and following COVID-19, it is needed, Connell said.

“We bring joy across the community for 10 days,” Connell said. “With everything going on in the world, we need that more than anything.”

AUTHOR: Addie Hedges
EDITOR: Emma Skidmore
COPY EDITOR: Anna Garnai
PHOTO: Provided by Ivan Sorensen