Wade Oval Wednesdays series celebrating 10th anniversary season
Posted June 27, 2013 in Articles
Author: Zachary Lewis
Wade Oval Wednesdays is its name, but its acronym may be what describes it best.
WOW, indeed. What began 10 years ago as a tiny gathering of some few hundred people is now one of University Circle's largest, most popular music series, drawing 50,000 over the course of a summer. Single high-profile acts have been known to pull in 5,000 alone from surrounding neighborhoods and far-flung counties.
"It's a Cleveland Central Park experience," said Chris Ronayne, president of University Circle Inc., alluding to New York's famed green space. "It's simply a festival as a much as it is a music festival."
Music, though, is WOW's reason for being. The name and schedule have changed over the years, but the focus on live talent has remained the same.
Every Wednesday at 6 p.m., a different local band takes the stage at Wade Oval and plays for a solid 2-1/2 hours, pausing only once en route to 9 p.m. Some weeks, a movie follows until 11 p.m. All of it is free and open to patrons of all ages.
Diversity of genre is a priority, and the season now under way is a case in point. So far this summer, the series has hosted reggae and country acts, and others representing rock, folk, soul and Brazilian are waiting in the wings through Aug. 28.
"We like to change it up every week," said spokeswoman Sheila Obrycki, adding that the series gets help from year-round presenters such as the Beachland Ballroom and the Happy Dog. "We look for bands that have big followings and groups that are going to entertain the crowd."
As Ronayne noted, however, music is far from the only attraction.
Bounce-castles and other amusements are on hand for children, and adults can visit an array of food vendors, a small farmers market, and a wine and beer garden. Many have come to treat the series as a weekly reunion, setting up tents and preparing lavish meals for large groups of friends and relatives.
That's all on top of nearby cultural institutions, most of which appeal to Wednesday visitors with special programming, extended hours, and discounted admission and parking.
Intermissions often feature giveaways and raffles, and rides around University Circle on the Euclid Beach Boys' Rocket Ship Car are available throughout for $3.
"We try to promote what's going on in other parts of town," Ronayne said. "People want to make an evening of it. We discovered early on that people really want to stick around."
But the best thing about WOW may be its reliability. Unlike other series of its kind, this one follows a rigid pattern. No need to consult a schedule. One act or another will be there every Wednesday.
Weather isn't much of a factor, either. Check the forecast, sure, and prepare accordingly, but wonder not whether the show will go on. Barring an emergency, it will, perhaps for another 10 summers or more.
"I think that's one of our biggest draws," Obrycki said. "We're consistent. Every week, we have a band. And no matter the weather, people always show up."