A two-day musical party in Veterans Memorial Park doubles as a fundraiser for local charities

Major entertainment events happen each week in Bay City in 2022, but summer would not be complete without Veterans Memorial Park music promoter Chad Cunningham returning to throw his two-day Rock The Hill party.

Once the organizer of the former River Roar concert series, Cunningham has continuously rolled the dice and delivered some of the biggest nationally recognized names in rock and country. This year he dips into modern country and classic nu-metal.

 “Because of COVID, we took the last two years off,” he says. “Looking around to see what was available this year, we booked Brantley Gilbert and Peacemaker for Fri., Aug. 5. Then we booked Papa Roach with Falling In Reverse, Hollywood Undead, and Bad Wolves on Aug. 6.”

This year’s events will raise money for two Bay City charities, Safe Harbor Kitchen and Just For Kids Charitable Organization.

Modern country fans will know the AMA and Billboard Award-winning Gilbert with songs such as ‘One Hell of An Amen,’ ‘Best Of Me,’ and ‘Kick It In The Sticks.’ He will share the stage with one of Bay City’s finest supergroups, Peacemaker, who’s polished classic rock radio sing-alongs make them a top-draw, party favorite band around the area.

From country to nu-metal, Rock the Hill comes to Bay City this weekend.Four bands load up the second night headed by Papa Roach, whose ‘Last Resort,’ ‘Help,’ and ‘Scars,’ are only a mere few of the songs that has kept the band alive for over 20 years. Falling In Reverse, Hollywood Undead, and Bad Wolves round out the night, ensuring the proper delivery of rock for the weekend party.

“The main thing is, this goes to charity,” Cunningham states. “Everything I do and all the volunteers and everybody that you see down here are donating their time. Then the money will go to Safe Harbor Soup Kitchen and Just For Kids – The Maier and Associates Charitable Foundation. So we have a lot of fun, but when the thing is over, we're able to do a lot of good in the community.”

Cunningham recalls how he got his start with classic rock and country 27 years ago.

“I first started in 1996 with .38 Special and Humble Pie and those types of shows,” he remembers. “Then we walked into (booking) Faith Hill and she hit it huge. And then the next year we did Martina McBride and then she hit it huge! Then we did Trace Adkins, and then he hit it huge! We really did three in a row. But KCQ started doing a free country music fest out on Ojibway Island. So then we went to more of a classic rock show.

A weekend filled with concerts in Veterans Memorial Park will fill the coffers of two local nonprofit agencies.(Photo courtesy of Bay CIty Concerts)“It was crazy how big every artist got that had played here. One of my friends made a comment that ‘they'll become big,’ which was pure luck. I passed up Hootie and The Blowfish who ended up being huge, so we don't get them all right. But it was fun.”

Continuing with music from Tesla to Whitesnake, Alice Cooper to Cinderella, Cunningham had his finger on the pulse of the classic rock and ‘80s generation for many years. Tapping into the ‘00s and modern country is a new territory of fresh choices for the promoter.

“I looked at about 100 different acts,” he notes. “You never know where you're going to end up. It just depends on who lines up, who's touring, who's within 500 miles before and after (of the next show venue).

“For Papa Roach, they had an offer in with Pine Knob. We outbid them and got lucky enough to get that show up here. We're excited about that! Bay City loves that type of show. VIP is already sold out. The whole show will probably sell out. We've got maybe about 1000 tickets left. So it'll be one of the biggest shows I've ever done.”

Gilbert’s arrival to Bay City was already in motion, sitting on the inside track during the pandemic months.

“I lined up Brantley through a furniture connection. He does a line of sofas with one of the companies that I own, a manufacturing factory called Peak Living out of Mississippi. We do the Brantley Gilbert Kicking It At Home furniture line. Managers and everybody helped out and he gave us a heck of a deal to come and play Bay City too. That's a big artist for us to bring in and we're excited. It's going to be two fun nights of shows right here in our hometown.”

Cunningham stopped to laugh when he first heard of Gilbert, misunderstanding his name during a phone conversation. His wife, Deanna, helped set it all straight.

“She's like, ‘Oh my gosh, everybody knows him.’ So she was kind of the one that said, ‘if you can get this show it would be great.’ Then the pandemic hit while we were negotiating. We said, ‘Let's try this furniture gig’ and he was pretty cool. He takes care of his people and his crew.”

Another roadblock was removed in recent years for Cunningham as he could open up the calendar wider and not have to lock into a specific weekend.

“The nice part about the shows now and working with the city is, I’m not stuck to a day,” he says. “It used to be more difficult because it was tied into the Bay City River Roar. So it had to be that weekend. Now, if the artist says ‘I'm available here or here,’ and the city is okay with it, I can move the show. It's a little bit easier. River Roar was always near the end of June and a lot of artists don’t go out until July.”

Long-time concertgoers will notice a few tweaks to the staging layout at Veterans Park as well this year.
“It's a bigger stage. We moved the stage back closer to the tennis courts. So it's a little bit different setup, because we're trying to get more people in the venue. All positive changes. I think it’s going to be a little bit easier to maneuver around. We keep trying to make things easier.”

At the end of the day, Cunningham gushes at what his bottom line has always been about.

“I know our sponsors Maier and Associates, Graff Chevrolet, Soaring Eagle, Saganing Eagles Landing, and Fabiano Brothers all recognize this, because every time we do it, they're there. They support us and help us to get the bands here (and) to help get the money for the charities. So really, where else could you go have this much fun with family and friends? I've seen how much good it can do in the community. It's just a great thing all the way around and Bay City is just an awesome town.”

 VIP tickets to Brantley Gilbert are still available. You can purchase tickets online for either show at Etix or BayCityConcerts.com as well as Prime Brothers, where you can have them printed.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.