By Kendra Hartsell
The 2014 Monticello Riverfest street dance is set to be a rockin’ one once again.
The Central Minnesota-based Fabulous Armadillos will take the stage at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 12, in the Monticello Community Center parking lot for the second year in a row.
After record-breaking concession sales during last year’s performance and awesome feedback from the crowd, the decision to invite them back was an easy one.
“We booked them for 2014 just weeks after their performance last year,” said 2014 Riverfest Chairman Rick Alexander. “They are a very talented group and they are very easy to work with.”
According to Alexander, Riverfest Committee members Tom Grossnickle and Mick Maher were responsible for getting the band to play at last year’s Riverfest street dance.
Grossnickle has been to about 50 Fabulous Armadillo shows. “I’m a big fan,” he said. “Every time there’s something different.”
Grossnickle said that the Fabulous Armadillos have a large fan base because they are made up of musicians from different bands.
“They have all played with the best of the best,” he said “They are a top notch band and people raved about them last year!”
And according to Alexander, the Riverfest committee is happy that they have been able to get the band two years in a row.
“We’re afraid they’re going to start out-pricing us,” he said. “They are becoming more and more popular each year. Their following is really growing.”
One of the greatest things about the Fabulous Armadillos, Alexander said, is that their sound appeals to a lot of generations.
“They are a perfect fit for our group of people,” he said. “They are fun and they engage the crowd.”
Alexander also said that they have a large catalog of music, which is correct, says Greg Armstrong, the band’s producer and keyboardist—they have about 500 songs they play from.
Like Alexander and the Riverfest Committee, the band members are excited for their show in Monticello, which is one of several scheduled around the state this summer.
“We are really looking forward to it,” Armstrong said. “It was a really fun show last year. We had beautiful weather and a great welcome.”
According to Armstrong, all eight members of the band will be performing at Riverfest. The eight of them have been playing together for nine years—the guitarist, bass player and drummer, however, have been playing together for 23 years
They first started as the Fabulous Armadillos, a moniker thought by Armstrong after his last name, when the band began playing theme concerts at the Pioneer Place On Fifth Theatre in St. Cloud. They have played over 35 different themes there since 2006.
“We will incorporate the themes we’ve been playing recently,” Armstrong said. “And we also play off the crowd, younger or older.”
The eight band members all live in various places in Minnesota, with five of them residing in St. Cloud. They are: Greg “Gary D.” Armstrong on keyboard, Paul “Stretch” Diethelm on guitar, Billy Scherer on vocals, Pamela McNeill on vocals, Mike Zeleny on bass, Jay O’Donnell on drums, Pat Thorn on trumpet and Mike Krietzer on saxophone.
“The Fabulous Armadillos play a wide range of music, so everybody’s welcome. It’s a community dance, and that’s what it’s all about,” said this year’s Street Dance Chair and 2013 Riverfest Chair Tim Kordell.
“I could sit and listen to them all the time,” he added. “They have sold out shows all winter long at the Theatre in St. Cloud.”
The street dance is free and open to all ages, with the band starting at 8 p.m. and playing until 11:30 p.m.
“There’s not too many places you can go to see a top notch band for free,” Grossnickle pointed out. “We pride ourselves on a free event.”
The cost of the band is paid for by food and beverage concessions that will be available during the show, along with a beer garden for listeners age 21 and older.
“The more people the better,” Alexander said. “All the money from the concessions goes back into the community in some way, shape or form. The only thing we can’t control is the weather.”
Kendra Hartsell is a freelance business and feature writer for the Monticello Times.