Valparaiso’s staple, family entertainment, Zao Island continued their summer concert series this Friday, with a live acoustic set featuring Chad Clifford, lead singer for local band The Crawpuppiesand owner of well-known local music store, Front Porch Music.
“This is something we’re trying to do to give the adults something more while they’re here with their kids,” said Erich MacDougal.
“Zao Island really is focused on providing fun, quality entertainment for the entire family. We offer pizza and sandwiches, drinks and recently finished a major expansion to our arcade,” MacDougal told IIMM, motioning toward the game room, which is nearly doubled in size, compared to previous years.
“The owner, Don Wright, came up with the idea. He wanted to do something to give parents something to do while their kids, and maybe even bring in adults without kids.”
MacDougal told us that the series features smaller, acoustic solo or duos on Friday evenings, with larger bands to play on Saturday nights, from June through August. Featured performers include Scott Cvelbar, the Planetary Blues Band, Chris and Lou, and several others.
Tonight’s performer, Chad Clifford, played a loose set of songs, ranging from covers of songs from the 60’s through the 2000’s. Clifford says that he plays a loose mix of music to please whatever the audience seems to like best.
“I play some Beatles, some 70’s .. I see what people seem to be responding to most and sort of tailor my set to what the people like,” said Clifford. “I have about 600 songs that I know and can draw from, so I can mix it up, play what people want to hear.
Clifford is looking forward to a busy summer, with his Front Porch Music Fest coming up soon, and says he’ll be playing the Chicago Beatle Fest with his band, the Crawpuppies.
“We’ll also be playing in Grand Rapids Michigan, opening for the Paul McCartney show. That’s really exciting.”
Newly-minted Valpo natives Ron and Linda Johnson were enjoying the show. “We just moved here from the Chicago area,” said Linda. “We heard good things about the area, and my sons live out here, so it was a natural move."
Linda told IIMM that her son attended Valparaiso University and – once he saw what Valpo had to offer, didn’t want to leave.
“The people here are friendlier,” said her husband, Ron. “We can go to the store here and people smile and say hello. It’s just really nice. And the taxes are lower, too.”
Linda agreed. “One of the things that we love most about Valpo is the amenities. There is so much to do, right here in town. We really thought we’d be giving up a lot by moving from the city, but really, we didn’t give up anything – we gained. We still have everything we need, but in a comfortable, friendly, small-town setting. It’s just perfect.”
Fellow Valpo resident, Nicole McGee was there, playing with her son and echoed the Johnsons’ feelings.
“There’s so much to do. There’s always something going on, I love it!” said McGee. “We moved here from Chicago, we’ve been here four years now and we really feel it was a great decision. You have everything you want.”
McGee says that she’s looking forward to the concert in the park later in the week.
“It’ll be a great date night for my husband and I,” said McGee “ Valpo is just like living in the big city, but better.”
As the sun set behind the trees and families played on the miniature golf course and raced each other on Zao Island’s go-kart track, it would be hard to argue.