Bret Michaels returns to Fort Thomas’ Merchants & Music on September 25

Bret Michaels performing at the Merchants & Music Festival 2015. He returns this year to headline the 2021 festival.

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by Robin Gee

After a hiatus last year due to Covid issues, the Merchants & Music Festival is back, and with it, the star musician Bret Michaels comes back as promised. The festival will take place on Saturday, September 25 at Tower Park, starting with a Kids’ Zone at 2 p.m. with music from 5 p.m. to midnight.

Michaels has promised to return this year after his appearance and the festival itself has been canceled in 2020. This will be the 16th year of the event which will also feature the return of several other acts including David tucker, Limit and that of Fort Thomas Leftovers. The after party will feature the returning group Mad Costanza.

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“We are very happy to be able to welcome Merchant’s & Music this year”, declared the mayor. Eric Haas. “It’s a great way for people to enjoy an afternoon and evening of fun and experience the wonderful aspects of Tower Park.”

The excitement has come to a climax

Katie Walters, a native of Fort Thomas and owner of Katie Walters Events & Entertainment, will host the event. She has been involved with Merchants & Music from the start and said she was thrilled to be back this year.

“I’ve worked in front and behind the scenes of Merchants & Music since its inception at Tower Park Amphitheater. I help book groups and host the event, so it’s very personal to me,” Walters said. “I am so proud to be part of a team that brings our community together for such a great celebration. It has evolved and grown over the years to become a must-see event for all ages.”

She also took the opportunity to thank the community and those working to organize the event in Fort Thomas. “The support the festival has received has been incredible. Thank you to the Fort Thomas Renaissance Board of Directors and to all who have contributed and continue to contribute to its success.”

Chanda Calentine is the new president of the Renaissance Council, joining the city as director of economic development in July. “The event is going to be fantastic. We will have some of our local businesses participating, and some of our longtime vendors are coming back … We are delighted to have all five groups back … and we are happy to to have St. Elizabeth with us and to do the sponsorship of Bands Against Cancer, ”she said.

“Overall, the most important thing is that we have a free event for the kids and for the community, and it’s really about bringing everyone together safely while having fun.”

That said, she said organizers pay close attention to CDC guidelines and do everything possible to keep people safe. In addition to adding more porta pots, bins and other equipment, they bring in 400 bales of hay to help keep people separate and protected.

“We are following all protocols to ensure the safety of people so that they can truly enjoy the event,” added Calentine.

Food, Entertainment and Kids’ Zone

Calentine described what awaits her. The free children’s zone, located near the amphitheater, opens at 2 p.m. and continues until 7 p.m. This year, the Cincinnati Circus will be bringing waders, animal balloons, face painting and more, she said. Kids and youngsters can have fun with backyard games, carnival games, inflatables, and a visit or two of favorite Disney characters. There’s even a misting area for quick cooling if it’s too hot.

Merchants & Music, 2018. FTM file.

Food vendors and trucks open at 3 p.m. There will be a wide variety of choices including pizza, Thai food, barbecues, pretzels, cupcakes – something for everyone, she said.

This year’s sponsors are St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Braxton Brewing and First Financial. Proceeds from certain food and beverage sales will benefit Bands Against Cancer for the St. Elizabeth Cancer Center.

Midway Cafe will donate a special pink drink with a portion of the proceeds to benefit the cancer center. Braxton will also donate a portion of the proceeds from its sales. Grassroots & Vine will serve red, white, prosecco by the glass + Frose ‘, Sangria and Cocktails.

Braxton is also partnering with the Fort Thomas Education Foundation to raise funds for its programs.

About groups

Michaels, famous frontman of Poison, is a singer-songwriter who continued his musical career as a solo artist as well as a television personality and actor. He featured on the show in 2015 and made a strong impression on the community, not only at the event, but during an offsite visit to the VA Hospital where he took the time to meet personally each patient.

Country singer David Tucker is originally from Bracken County and now lives in Nashville. He released a well-received debut album this year. He noted on his Facebook page that the Merchants and Music show marks his first full group show since the pandemic.

Borderline (aka Borderline 360) is a returning Campbell County favorite. Leftovers are also well known and loved in the hometown. Mad Constanza is a fun ’80s cover band of Fort Thomas residents (and Highland graduates) that will round out the night.

Again, the The Merchants and Music Festival takes place at or near the Tower Park Amphitheater on Saturday, September 25. The Kids’ Zone is open from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., vendors open at 3 p.m. and music is from 5 p.m. to midnight. The event is free and proceeds from some of the vendors and sponsors will benefit Bands Against Cancer for St. Elizabeth Cancer Center. The festival is hosted by the Fort Thomas Renaissance Board, the city’s economic development and business support group.

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