July 18, 2024

Country and Celtic come to McKinley

Country musician SJ McDonald will be performing at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 29, at Party in the Park.

This year’s Party in the Park will see both a newcomer and returning artists on stage, and both promise to put on an exciting show for Creston.

The 18th annual Party in the Park is Saturday, June 29, at the McKinley Park bandshell. SJ McDonald will start off the party at 7 p.m., with the i-Berrys to follow. The gates open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the gate, and are nonrefundable. In case of rain, McDonald will perform at the Creston Eagles Club, entry available with a Party in the Park ticket.

SJ McDonald

McDonald is a country musician from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She spent the last few years performing on lower Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee, but has been sharing her musical talents far before that.

“Basically when I started to talk was when I started to sing,” McDonald said. “There was a 4-H Share the Fun Talent Show happening in my hometown. I was 10, and my mom just decided to sign me up. That was my first real time on a stage.”

McDonald won that competition and never looked back. Focusing on what she describes as the “nostalgic country music” of the 90s and 2000s,” it didn’t take long for McDonald to be approached by an agent.

“When I was about 14 or 15, I got approached by a booking agent that wanted to put me on the road with John Anderson... and then Aaron Tippin,” McDonald said. “Through that, I put together a band with a bunch of guys that went to high school with my dad, believe it or not. From the age of 14-20, I went around the Virginia, North Carolina area, just playing little venues in bars.”

McDonald was 18 when she started performing in Nashville, spending just over six years there. She explained she’s mostly done on Broadway for now, instead touring around the U.S. and songwriting for Major Bob Music, which she recently signed a publishing deal with. McDonald was also honored as the May 2024 Country Music Television Next Up Now artist.

Party in the Park won’t be McDonald’s first performance in Iowa. “I actually played in Afton for the tractor pull last year and I loved it,” McDonald said. “Everyone out in Iowa feels just like everyone back home in Virginia, they’re just good ol’ country people who want to get down and they want to listen to music and drink a beer.”

McDonald’s set will last about two hours, including both her own music and a few covers.

“They can expect a mixture of original music from me and music that they grew up loving. I put a good bit of Jo Dee Messina, the Dixie Chicks, Alan Jackson in there, maybe some George Strait,” McDonald said. “I don’t have enough music out to play two hours of original music, so it will be a mixture of new stuff and familiar.”

More information and music by McDonald can be found on her website at sjmcdonald.com.

The i-Berrys

A nine-piece band from Osage Beach, Missouri, the i-Berrys will be performing at Party in the Park Saturday, June 29.

A nine-piece band based in Osage Beach, Missouri, the i-Berrys will be playing a wide variety of music, including country, pop and rock’n’roll. In fact, they identify their music as “Celtic-Irish-pop-funk-country-rock.”

This will not be the band’s first time in Creston. Band founder and Creston-native Roger Hulett said the band first came to Creston four years ago.

“It’s been five years since we were there. It was right at the start of COVID, so not a great social setting to pack the hillside of McKinley Park,” Hulett said. “Now, we’re coming back with the full band and we’re ready to fill that hillside up.”

Hulett founded the band 10 years ago as his last big music project.

“Well, I’ve been in the music business forever, and I knew everybody else that was in the music business,” Hulett said. “I just told my wife I wanted to do one big project, and I mean big, so I just called in the best players that I knew.”

With nine people, the i-Berrys use a mix of instruments, including some Celtic ones.

“Well, we’ve got all the Irish instruments: The Bodhran drums, accordion, xylophone. We’ve got a drummer that also doubles as keyboard player. We’ve got a fiddle, banjo...” Hulett said. “One of the unique instruments in the band and kind of a real identifier for us is called a melodica. It’s a wind-blown keyboard and our girl in front, Tara, she plays the melodica.”

Many of the songs the i-Berrys play are well-known, but have been changed to give it an Irish feel.

“You can play all the great standard Irish songs, or you could take songs that people already recognize and know and give them a little bit of an Irish feel or Irish twist to it,” Hulett said. “We may take anything from TLC to Whitney Houston, we may do a Queen song that we’ve Irished it up. We call it Berrying a song.”

The band will be Berrying up McKinley soon, something Hulett said the band is very excited about.

“The last time we were there the band absolutely fell in love with Creston. The people, the town, and they have been all over me to get back there,” Hulett said. “Of all the shows we do all year, the show that the band is most excited to get up and do is on that bandshell in Creston.”

More information on the i-Berrys can be found on their website at theiberrys.weebly.com.

Erin Henze

Originally from Wisconsin, Erin is a recent graduate from UW-Stevens Point. Outside of writing, she loves to read and travel.