Rec Complex

Freddy DeMarco (left), John Welch and Greg Wagner of Dirty Deeds, an AC/DC tribute band, play the roles of Angus Young, Bon Scott and Malcolm Young, respectively, during the third annual BBQ and Music Festival at the Meadville Area Recreation Complex on Saturday.

Live music is what drew Andy and Darcy King of Meadville to the third annual BBQ and Music Festival at the Meadville Area Recreation Complex on Saturday.

Seated under a tent set up a short distance from the stage, the Kings said it was the atmosphere more than the specific bands that enticed them.

“This is our first year coming,” Andy, 29, said. “The last couple of years, when it was advertised, we wanted to come but we’ve been busy on those weekends. This year we weren’t busy, so we decided to come.”

Roaring in the background as he spoke was the chorus of “It’s a long way to the top (if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll),” and the couple had just finished barbecue sandwiches.

Music: check. Barbecue: check. The main question remaining was: AC/DC or Eagles?

Dirty Deeds and 7 Bridges, the two bands performing at the fundraiser for the foundation that supports the MARC, are tribute bands performing hits from two of the top-selling acts of the past 60 years: AC/DC and the Eagles, respectively. As Dirty Deeds opened the show, it was clear that many in the audience would be singing along all night. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, AC/DC’s “Back in Black” has sold more than 22 million copies since 1980 and the Eagles’ “Their Greatest Hits, 1971-1975” has sold more than 35 million copies since 1976.

And the Eagles did that without any help from Darcy King.

“I didn’t know who the Eagles are,” the 29-year-old said.

The couple’s reason for attending had less to do with the specific bands, they said, and more to do with the nature of the event.

They were not alone in that respect — a fact that was music to the ears of the concert organizers.

“We’ve got people coming here who haven’t been here in years or who don’t know about (the MARC) at all,” said Jay Verno, a member of the board of the MARC’s foundation. “Think about it: getting all these people here and having fun, it means a lot.”

Hopefully what it means for MARC officials is continued improvements in the facility that is more than 40 years old. The concert will help to kick off what promises to be an exciting season for the facility, according to Aaron Rekich, executive director of the MARC. All money raised from the event will benefit the MARC’s foundation, which already has targeted a new ice resurfacing machine and swimming pool locker room renovations as its next projects after the installation of new ice chillers for the George S. DeArment Ice Arena last year.

As he checked the flow of visitors at the event’s entrance gate, Rekich was optimistic about the event’s results.

“It’s way bigger than last year,” he said, “that’s all I’ve got to say.”

Rachel Verno, who chairs the MARC’s foundation, said that about 1,000 of the $15 tickets for the event had been sold prior to Saturday. With additional sales the day of the concert, she said, the total could approach 2,000.

“Next year,” she said, “we definitely want to make it bigger and maybe change venues.”

If things go well, she added, organizers will explore the possibility of moving the event to the Crawford County Fairgrounds next year.

Jay Verno, Rachel Verno’s father and fellow board member, said the concert is part of a larger strategy of community engagement that has already paid off with improved fundraising evident in the facility’s corporate support and $200,000 campaign to help replace the ice chillers last year.

“We’ve accomplished a lot in the past couple of years,” he said, “but I really think we’re just getting started.”

Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at mcrowley@meadvilletribune.com.

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