The first day of July ushered in a new era of live entertainment in Aurora Thursday night with the euphoric REO Speedwagon sold out concert at RiverEdge Park! Walking up River Street packed with parked cars as far as the eye can see, the sounds of Head East rocked through the airwaves and I realized the special guest opening band was on time! That’s right! For the season’s first major concert, and I mean major, they’re playing to a crowd of some 6,000 fans with no delays! I get my late butt to the gorgeous pedestrian bridge by 8:30 and right off the bat I’m greeted by Christian Hubbard, Paramount’s Audience Services Manager. He’s grinning ear to ear as I’m wowed by the neon-colored strip lighting accenting the bridge’s beautiful, streamlined architecture. And what a view! A painter’s dream of magenta sunset hovers over the shimmering Fox River in an embrace of the stadiums’ towering stage and park. The grassy hills’ giant screens are flashing with live streams of the show to the cheers of capacity crowds! Now I had learned that this earlier-than-expected comeback was a bit short-handed but I sure didn’t expect to see VP of Finance and Human Resources, Erika Miller, working at the park, running between destinations, taking a minute to stop and say hello! All hands on deck is what it takes!

Moving through the easy to navigate aisles across the seated spectators, I run up to the skybox and the first faces I see at the entrance are Dana Rebecca and Tanya Jarvis tending bar like they do at Paramount’s Grand Gallery! (See you at Kinky Boots, ladies!) Warm hugs! And a Grey Goose and soda! There’s Donor Relations & Stewardship Coordinator Will Skrip talking to Michael Pegues (City of Aurora, Information Technology) to whom I get reintroduced (I knew he looked familiar)! And Chief Development Officer Jonathan Jensen comes by and we are shaking hands and taking in what is turning out to be this exquisite harmony of the river, sky, a packed open air concert and Rock and Roll!

There’s a brief lull on stage as it’s set for the main attraction and then the crowd goes crazy as REO Speedwagon makes their entrance! Frontman, Kevin Cronin (fellow classmate at Loyola U. from Evanston btw!) just tears into it, forever young and in great voice, he finds a role in presiding over what is dawning on all of us this evening – he generously, eloquently speaks to how we are all here, all together, and that is what we are celebrating right now more than anything! He demonstrates a great humility in being part of the occasion, but let’s face it, if it weren’t for REO, the night wouldn’t have been as full of love and sweet reminiscences as with their hits like “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Keep on Loving You.”

I start to reflect on the Paramount leadership of President & Ceo Tim Rater, VP of Programming & Sales Jim Jarvis, and VP of Productions Rose Quealy and their teams – how ecstatic they must feel about the night’s immeasurable success. It’s taken their collective courage, confidence and skill to bring in this huge event of reopening safely, on time, and looking and sounding like a piece of heaven!

Suddenly face to face with our Mayor Richard Irvin, I congratulate him for “gettin’ it done” and get a hug and a selfie! Before I head out, I look around and take a moment once more to breathe in the atmosphere. The whole park is glowing in a light of Friendship, Music, and Hope. We are congregating and communing together again! So much more future goodness to look forward to!

Love and thanks,