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New venue for Cinder City Days earns applause along with the musical acts

Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Julian Emerson | Leader-Telegram

As the country music band Diamond Rio belted out one song after another on a temperate Saturday night with the Chippewa River as a backdrop, Alyssa Schook stopped dancing along to the music to take in the moment. 

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"All of a sudden it hit me what a beautiful spot this was," Schook, of Eau Claire, said Monday, two days after she was among an estimated 3,000 people attending the concert at River Prairie Park that in addition to Diamond Rio included bandsForgotten Highway and Levi Pelzer. "I didn't know what a great location it was until I went there."

Altoona city officials said they're hearing similar sentiments from people who attended this year's Cinder City Days, which took place Thursday through Sunday. This year marked the 45th version of the summer celebration but the first at which some events occurred at the park. 

The site's attractive scenery and amenities proved to make for a successful first staging of a major event there, city officials and concert attendees said. 

"A lot of people didn't even know the amphitheater was down there," Altoona police Chief Jesse James said of River Prairie Park. "People are saying they are in awe of the beauty of the site and that venue."

In past years Cinder City Days occurred, appropriately, at Cinder City Park in Altoona. While the festival has had a successful run for the past four-plus decades, this year's event showed the benefits of expanding its happenings to other parts of the city, organizers said.

Cinder City Park hosted a softball tournament and carnival. In addition to the music concert at River Prairie Park, a car show at Altoona City Park along Tenth Street was a popular attraction to fest attendees, city officials said.   

Still, it was River Prairie Park that prompted the most positive reaction. Shuttle buses to and from the park helped alleviate a parking crunch.      

James and others said they hope the success of the concert at the park sets the stage for future projects. The site is scheduled to host another large-scale event on Saturday, when the P10 Festival - a combination of activities such as music, an artists' market, educational presentations, literary readings, kubb and cribbage tournaments and others - will take place there. 

"Hopefully the success there (on Saturday) sets the stage for putting on more great events there in the future," James said, noting those involved with this year's Cinder City Days will meet soon to review the fest and see what to improve for next year.

The ability to host such events as the music concert and P10 are part of the vision for how River Prairie Park can bring people together, city Administrator Mike Golat said during a recent interview. 

"We want this to be a place where people can come celebrate the many great things going on here," he said. 

Contact: 715-830-5911, julian.emerson@ecpc.com  

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