By Vince Chiarelli
With spring in full bloom, it means festival season is upon us! With changing weather and promise of warmer temperatures, spring and summer are the prime months for local and regional shows and concerts. Rockford has so much to offer in the form of live music and festivals during the spring and summer months. But, since I’ll be writing about all of those on a weekly basis, I thought I’d start my column by introducing a Rockford neighbor who is producing tons of great concerts and festivals week after week.
Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting and working with a man named Ron Onesti, a first-generation Italian-American, promoter extraordinaire. Ron contacted me about playing two of his Italian festivals in the Chicago suburbs, both of which he produces and promotes. The first festival of the year is called “Oakley Festa Pasta Vino Italian Block Party,” which takes place during Father’s Day weekend, June 13-15. I was amazed at how well produced this festival was and how family oriented and close-knit the area is. His second festival, “Little Italy Fest West,” in Addison, Ill., was just as great and had the longest and coolest fireworks show I have ever seen. All of this, and more, is put together and run by Ron.
Keeping tabs on Ron, I found out that he came to own and restore the Arcada Theater in St. Charles, Ill. Onesti purchased and renovated this 900-seat theater in 2005, which was built in 1926. Ron has been fulfilling his dream of reviving this wonderful theater and bringing big-city shows to this western Chicago suburb. Just within the year I’ve known Ron, I’ve seen how he is continuing to bring class-act performers on a continual basis to the Arcada. All his shows are affordable, and there is free parking to get to the theater.
Not only does Ron just own and operate the Arcada Theater and produce festivals, he now does the booking for the Grand Victoria Casino. He is putting quality acts on the actual stage on the boat, and as of last year, outside in their Festival Park. Last year, the casino sponsored three nights of shows in the park, which Onesti produced. These shows included Eric Burdon and the Animals and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts in August, Night Ranger and Grand Funk Railroad in September, and Lynyrd Skynyrd in October. The first two concerts drew more than 5,000 people, while the audience for Lynyrd Skynyrd was close to 8,000 fans, according to Onesti.
For this year’s line-up in the park, Onesti has released some of the acts he intends to bring. For July 3, Onesti said he has booked Three Dog Night, and for the Fourth of July, performances will include the Chicago 6 Band, featuring Chicago Bears legends Dan Hampton, Otis Wilson and Steve McMichael, former Styx singer Dennis DeYoung, and Creedence Clearwater Revisited. I’m especially excited for June 20, for which Onesti told me he has booked Il Volo, who will appear with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra.
It amazes and inspires me to know that the entrepreneurial spirit is still flourishing. Being an entrepreneur myself, I understand the daily struggles and stresses that make your career both rewarding and tiring. But Onesti told me he couldn’t do it all without his great team of colleagues. The one thing about Ron Onesti that makes him stand out from the rest is that even though he is in the entertainment industry, he is one of the most trustworthy, detail-oriented, and “intense” promoters/entrepreneurs I have ever met.
For a listing of all of Onesti’s shows and festivals, visit www.oshows.com.
Please contact Vince Chiarelli if you have any original Rockford music or radio suggestions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the May 21-27, 2014, issue