Bandstand concerts scrapped due to delays

Just last week, Bethany Beach officials were still hopeful that the summer’s bandstand concert schedule might come off as planned, or nearly so, despite delays with the town’s bandstand renovation project. The new bandstand was nearing completion, but the seating area remained a giant question mark.

This week, the town canceled the entire slate of concerts scheduled for the month of June, officials stating they now hoped the bandstand would be ready by the first days of July, in time for scheduled Fourth of July weekend events.

The delays came on the heels of an early-winter revision to the plans for the bandstand itself, exchanging the basic foundation originally planned for one with pilings driven deep in to the earth below. It added approximately $90,000 to the project’s estimated cost and also put the project behind its original schedule by a month.

When the construction on the project got under way with demolition in November 2005, then-Planning Commission Chairman Phil Boesch noted that the town had originally planned to initiate the work in 2004. However, they couldn’t find a crew that was able to start before January – and therefore couldn’t guarantee they’d finish by Memorial Day 2005. That possibility was deemed unacceptable.

But delaying until the fall of 2005 appears not to have worked out either. Though the schedule originally called for the work in the first week of December, the pilings didn’t get driven until 2006 was on the horizon.

Back in November, the timetable for completing the project was May or June. It was that or – as Town Manager Cliff Graviet said in jest, trying to put some lightness over the difficulty of finally getting the project going on schedule for a pre-Memorial Day finish – a new town manager would be providing the next update on the project.

Council members greeted the declaration with an appropriate chuckle. Now that it’s reality, Graviet has no plans to resign, and the council hasn’t dumped blame for the delays on his doorstep. Instead, the belated design changes have been faulted, and much lamented now that their impact is being seen.

Graviet explained this week that the design changes had been recommended late in the process, as the result of a final engineering review before construction.

Initially in that review, he said, engineers decided the larger of planned planter areas required support pilings that hadn’t originally been planned. The construction schedule was pushed back to accommodate the change, and that new set of pilings driven. The pile-driving company considered their job done and left the site.

Then, Graviet said, the engineers came back to the town a second time, saying they felt the smaller sets of planters in the design also required pilings. The town had to ask the pile-driving company to come back and do that work. The net result: a 30- to 60-day delay.

“It’s easy to see how in a project like this one, when engineers do a review they start to second-guess themselves,” Graviet said this week. “But looking at the size and mass of the planters,” he allowed, “you can see the pilings were needed.”

The new design will position the bandstand toward the southwest corner of the area, facing northeast, and incorporate a “town square,” where residents can read, or sit and chat, and a better connection between Garfield Parkway and the ocean.

People approaching the beach from Garfield Parkway still won’t be able to see the ocean until they near the boardwalk, but the new design would open up the approach, Boesch said in November.

Though the project will undoubtedly be warmly welcomed when done, the uncertainty and – now concrete – problems it’s caused for the early part of the town’s traditional summer season are considerably less welcome.

Cancelled were performances by Steel the Show & Plenty Problems/DSPA, 1st State Symphonic Band, Milford Community Band, IRHS Overtimes, Newark Community Band, U.S. Navy Sea Chanters, Mystic Warriors, Bobby Martin's Tribute to Frank Sinatra, Back Bay Strummers, Sweet Adelines Chorus and the 287th National Guard Stage Band, as well as Memorial Day weekend concerts by Giant Steps and Delmarva Big Band.

Still planned are Memorial Day services, which have been moved from the bandstand area to the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company’s fire hall, next to the town hall. They are still set for 11 a.m. on Monday, May 29, at the new location.

“The governor has accepted our invitation,” Events Coordinator Gloria Farrar noted regarding Monday’s services.

Also affected by the delays is the second annual Seaside Craft Show, sponsored by the town’s Cultural and Historical Affairs Committee. The Saturday, June 3, event will not be canceled, but will instead be slightly relocated.

“The crafters that were assigned to the bandstand area will be moved to Campbell Place,” Farrar said this week.

The overall event area will now encompass the boardwalk off streets from Parkwood to Central, as well as the boardwalk-side tip of Garfield Parkway and, similarly, the easternmost tip of Campbell Place.

“We apologize for inconvenience,” Farrar said, “but the show will go on.”

Indeed, Farrar said the change might prove to be somewhat of a plus. “It’s actually a little more spread out. There will be an easier shoppers’ flow. And they’ll have another area to go to.”

With the schedule for finishing the bandstand renovations uncertain as winter turned to spring, Farrar set about with a proactive approach to scheduling the summer’s entertainment.

“I mailed contracts out the first week of March, with a rider attached, just in case,” Farrar explained. She had made sure to insert a rider into the contracts with performers scheduled for June, allowing for cancellation should the bandstand not be ready in time.

“Unfortunately, that was the case,” Farrar lamented this week. But the town will not have to pay performers who were scheduled to appear in June.

Instead, bandstand events for 2006 will tentatively kick off with July 1’s scheduled performance by Captain Quint, a Jimmy Buffet tribute band, and July 2’s concert by FAB Mania, a Beatles tribute band. But some doubt remains about even those two dates. “We’re hoping to be on board by the Fourth of July,” Farrar emphasized.

Indeed, Farrar said she’s focusing on Fourth of July events (on Tuesday, July 4, itself) that will feature the traditional parade at noon, with a performance Philadelphia Brass Band at 7:30 p.m. and fireworks at dusk (conditions permitting).

Other events scheduled for the month of July include; the Delaware National Guard Band, Tim Laushey Orchestra, Naval Academy Concert Band, Ocean Awareness Days, FLUMPA Interactive Musical Science Adventure, country-western singer Beth Ann Cayhill, Honeycombs, visual comedian Pete Geist, St. Paul’s Brazz, U.S. Navy Commodores Jazz, Naval Academy Electric Brigade with Top 40 tunes; City of Fairfax Band; Fabulous Dialtones and Acoustic Dialtones.

The town will also feature children’s theater performances on July 25 and Aug. 15. Two shows are to be presented on each date, at 6 and 7 p.m. in Town Hall. Free tickets will be available in Town Hall at 8:30 a.m. on July 25 and Aug. 15 only, for that day’s shows, while supplies last, with a limit of six tickets per person picking them up. Ticket disbursement goes quickly, usually “sold out” by 9 a.m.

As it stands, August’s entertainment schedule includes performances by Kidsinger Jim & The Grown-ups, U.S. Navy Cruisers, Al Santoro & the Hi-Liters, 1st State Harmonizers barbershop group, Cole Younger Band, Bob Clay Orchestra, Dakkota, Whaley's Corner, Generations, American Songbook, Phineas T. Waggs’ one-man show, Giant Steps and Jazz Pioneers.

The town will also present its annual talent show at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 25. Registration for acts in the show starts Aug. 1 and runs through Aug. 17.

The bandstand entertainment season will close the first weekend of September, with performances by Still Surfin’, Jesse Garron’s Tribute to Elvis, and U.S. Army Volunteers’ rock’n’roll.

Despite the rocky start, Farrar is hopeful the town’s traditional summer entertainment series will continue to be a success and bring residents and visitors alike out to the town center. Those who miss out this June should be able to count on the 2007 edition to return to its rightful place on the bandstand.

“We hope everybody misses us and comes back,” Farrar said.