London Ontario’s largest live music festivalIt’s summertime in downtown London and you know what that means – Festival Season! The city hosts a wide array of themed events over several months, but perhaps none are a bigger draw than Rock the Park. The annual 4-day concert held during the last week of July offers something for everyone, no matter what their jam might be. So pick your night. Dig into the back of your closet and find that old Supertramp t-shirt or even a neon fanny-pack to pull together the perfect look for your bill of choice. Get your friends together, grab a few water bottles, and get to the park. This thing is going to rock.
HistoryFormerly known as ‘Hawk Rocks the Park’ from 2004 to 2008, London Ontario’s Rock the Park festival began as a celebration of classic rock, shaking the downtown area and enthralling live music lovers with a new bill of musical acts each summer. Fifteen years ago, with an eye on London’s Harris Park – a venue with enough space to support a large number of projected attendees, staff, sponsors, and vendors – The Jones Entertainment Group set about realizing their vision for a multi-day rock’n’roll spectacle that would put the city on the festival map. Today the event draws legions of live music fanatics from across Ontario and even the United States every summer, dramatically boosting the city’s tourism revenue. It’s safe to say that The Jones Entertainment Group succeeded in their mission. In recent years, Rock the Park has diversified from its original focus on classic rock, to help earn broader appeal from festival goers. In 2014, the festival dedicated one of its nights to country music performances for the first time in its history. Following the success of this shift in audience focus, the Jones Entertainment Group saw the value in splitting up the festival thematically, dedicating each night to a distinct musical genre or trend. In 2017, Rock the Park promoted a 90’s hip-hop night, announcing acts such as Salt-N-Pepa, Naughty by Nature, and Young MC among others, selling out in record time. This year, organizers have put together a bill that riffs on lasts years familiar themes, featuring the likes of Platinum Blonde, A Flock of Seagulls, Men Without Hats, and Cyndi Lauper, attracting similar numbers. At Rock the Park, nostalgia is always on tap!
A Legacy of Sponsors Rocking Out for Worthy CausesAt its inception, the event was the annual summer blast, presented by its lone sponsor, 103.9 The Hawk, and was the primary fundraiser for Bethany’s Hope Foundation, raising over 2.2 million in the fight against MLD (Metachromatic leukodystrophy) in its first 12 years. Eventually, the charity had plans to embark upon a more nation-wide awareness strategy (made possible in no small part by the funding generated by Rock the Park), and respectfully stepped aside as prime beneficiary in order to make room for other charities to benefit just as they had. In 2016, the event returned, with three new radio station sponsors sharing the bill – 98.1 Free FM, FM96, and the country station BX93. The number of charities benefited by Rock the Park has grown likewise and has included Big Brothers Big Sisters of London and Area, Make a Wish Southwestern Ontario, The Brandon Prust Foundation, and the ‘Children’s Health Foundation, also acting as sponsor to Western Mustangs Football, raising over $3 million for London area charities. Today, the festival is supported by their main sponsor, Start.ca, along with iHeart Radio, FM96, and 97.5 Virgin Radio, Palm Bay, Tourism London, Coors Light, Pizza Pizza, London Honda, The Ontario Media Development Corporation, and the London Free Press.
HeadlinersAn impressive list of indie, rock, hard rock, country, pop, and R&B acts have graced the Rock the Park stage since the festival’s inception, including Steppenwolf, ZZ TOP, Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Steve Winwood, The Tragically Hip, The Arkells, Stone Temple Pilots, and younger, up-and-coming acts like July Talk to name just a few. See the official Rock the Park entry on Wikipedia for a complete list of all headliners throughout the event’s 15-year history. Tens of thousands of rock’n’roll fans attend Rock the Park each and every year. Like most festivals of its size, it has overcome its setbacks. In 2007, one of the headlining bands was meant to be Boston – the band canceled all their tour stops after the untimely death of Brad Delp – but with Pat Benatar, Deep Purple, Nazareth, Cheap Trick, George Thorogood and Creedence, the event was hardly left lacking for a big name draw. Rock the Park’s promoters have done a great job over the years, not only in signing and promoting great acts for the festival but have also carefully considered the needs of their different audience members, offering flexibility and amenities to ensure that a safe and comfortable experience is had by all, no matter the size of your budget.
Different Ways to Enjoy the ShowThe different types of passes available will determine how you can enjoy the show: Gates open at 4 pm each day of Rock the Park, with live performances scheduled to begin at 5 pm. General admission passes are specific to the general admission area, with access to two large beer gardens and an expansive, standing area right up against the stage. The VIP Reserved Table Passes are a nice touch for people who like to be entertained in style. These passes guarantee you a seat in a special, reserved- seating table area, also close to the stage. The VIP area is equipped with its own washroom facilities, a separate entrance to help avoid the crowds, and food and bar service at designated stations. VIP pass holders are also welcome to stand for their favorite acts (if they prefer) at a VIP standing area.
The VIP Standing Room Only Pass gets you into the VIP standing area but does not reserve you a chair among the tabled seating. For those seeking the royal treatment for themselves and their party, concert organizers have ‘suites’ available. These elevated and covered areas look like miniature outdoor stages themselves and provide up to 40 attendees with private bar service and washrooms for the duration of the show. Any interested parties are asked to contact Jones Entertainment Group for pricing. A raised, designated seating area is always available for attendees with physical disabilities and their companions on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Rock’n’Roll (with Rules)Due to the size of the park and the need for organizers to keep spaces open for large, moving crowds, there is no camping allowed at the park. Lawn chairs are likewise prohibited. Other similar regulations apply to what festival-goers may bring:
- No umbrellas longer than 24 inches
- No lawn chairs
- No blankets
- No selfie-sticks
- No pets
- No professional cameras / cameras with removable lenses
- Outside food or beverages will not be allowed into the park
- Bags, backpacks, and coolers will be confiscated by staff
- Attendees may not leave and re-enter the park