Blog Post

Gallagher Bluedorn Block Parties Coming to Your Neighborhood

Article originally posted to
Melody Parker January 27, 2021

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A free pop-up concert could be coming to your neighborhood. This summer, the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center will partner with The Hearst Center for the Arts and take its portable stage into Cedar Falls and Waterloo neighborhoods for a series of Gallagher Bluedorn Block Parties.

Between 10 and 12 free outdoor concerts will each feature a local band, said GBPAC Executive Director Steve Carignan.

After a successful summer and fall hosting several outdoor concerts on the University of Northern Iowa campus, as well as the popular “Local Legends” music series live streamed from the GBPAC’s Great Hall stage, the center’s staff decided to marry the two concepts and expand entertainment opportunities into surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’ve worked hard to stay open, responsive and active, but since the pandemic began, there has been a real events vacuum. It’s understandable, but it has had a great impact on musicians and other performers and how they make a living,” Carignan explained.

At the same time, COVID-19 forced the performing arts center to “pivot quickly” on how it connected with audiences, as well as presented new opportunities to work with local and regional musicians. “We’d like those relationships to continue. Being able to provide a venue and a paid gig – it’s a rising tide [that lifts all boats]. And we wanted to get out and do something that isn’t on campus,” he said.

The center is reaching out to neighborhood associations and others in both Waterloo and Cedar Falls to organize these community events.

“For many folks, this may be the first time they’ll have had a live music experience since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Response has been great.”

Waterloo’s Maywood neighborhood will host the first block party, Carignan said. The date and location will be announced at a later date.

The center will provide the portable stage, sound and lighting, as well as the staff to run the equipment and plan and mark pods or allotments of space for maintaining physical distance, as well as pay the band.

“Our costs are low because our staff is already being paid, and we’re using our own equipment,” Carignan said. The portable stage was bought used last year and refurbished. Reduced marketing costs in the center’s budget also help make the block parties possible, along with support from Friends of the Gallagher Bluedorn and business sponsors.

Neighborhoods can choose the local group they want to perform. “Many of the bands that performed in the ‘Local Legends’ series may perform again at the block parties,” said Blake Argotsinger, GBPAC marketing manager. “But we have a long list of musicians to play ‘Local Legends’ in the future, so it’s not a requirement to have played. Our aim is to connect the area musicians (our local legends) with the neighborhoods.” 

The center’s collection of recordings provides “a great example of what neighborhoods can expect from the bands,” Argotsinger said, across a broad spectrum of musical genres.

“We are essentially delivering an event to neighborhoods, and they can be tailored to another event like a chili cook-off or whatever the neighborhood may have going on,” Carignan said.

He’s excited to build relationships within the surrounding neighborhoods.

“It helps our brand and helps us reach new audiences. Without COVID, we would never have done anything like this. These are the kinds of things you wish you could do if you had more time and the equipment to do it with. Now we have the equipment and the experience to do it,” Carignan added.