LIMA — For one night, it was all about the music.
The Council for the Arts of Greater Lima held its fourth annual Motown in the Downtown event Saturday at Memorial Hall, bringing close to 800 people from throughout the community together to enjoy a variety of classic hits.
Council member Bart Mills noted that Memorial Hall was close to bursting at the seams because of the crowd.
“I don’t know how we’re going to get any more in here,” he said. “The balcony is full to the point where we probably don’t want to have any more bodies up there. But it’s a good problem to have.”
Darryl Simpson has been selling southern-style slaw dogs at the event since it first started, and he has quickly become accustomed to a large crowd.
“It’s a big turnout all the time,” he said. “Ever since they’ve been doing this, it’s been sold out. I go through probably a couple hundred dogs out here. The chicken sandwiches are really big.”
This year’s concert featured The Motown Experience out of Detroit.
“It has five male singers who were members of the Temptations, the Miracles and the Coasters,” Mills said. “There’s an eight-piece backup band, complete with a horn section, that comes with them.”
Mills attributed the event’s popularity to the fact that Motown music is a genre that can appeal to a wide variety of people.
“This is a type of music that everyone knows,” he said. “It’s not like it’s Lawrence Welk playing. This is serious music, and you have guys in here that are 90 years old who are loving this.”
Mills even had the opportunity to meet someone intimately connected with the Motown sound.
“I met a guy here who was the first employee at Motown Records,” he said. “He was actually a PR guy, and he lives in Findlay. He came with the band.”
For the organizers, this is an event that can reach across cultural lines, bringing everyone together.
“It’s really nice to have a few events in town that appeal to all people — old, young, black, white,” Mills said. “It’s rare. We don’t play together nearly enough. It’s nice to have those opportunities.”
All of the money raised goes back to the Council to support arts-centered intiatives in Lima.
“The nice thing is that the money we raise goes right back into the program,” Mills said. “This helps support the free concerts in the park, which start June 15. It also helps support the artist-in-residency programs here at local schools. This may also help reinforce what we’re doing with Lima Alive, which will be in place of Square Fair this year. This is one of the few paying programs we do, so it helps pay for the free programs we do the rest of the year.”
As many in the crowd were clapping their hands, singing along and even dancing to the music, Simpson reflected on how events such as Motown in the Downtown can serve as a unifying force throughout Lima.
“We need to have more of this,” he said. “We’ve got people from all different walks of life coming together. I look forward to this every year.”