Break out the hula skirts, shake off the leis and get ready for some of those island vibes.

Downtown Franklin is going tropical.

In celebration of the start of festival season, and the opening of its new amphitheater, the city is putting on a double bill filled with music, food, drinks and fun.

The weekend starts on Friday — opening night of the new Amphitheater at Young’s Creek Park — with a performance by local favorite country-rockers Blue River Band.

Keep the party going on Saturday for the Festival Country Luau, a Hawaiian-themed event headlined by a performance by Jimmy Buffett tribute Parrots of the Caribbean.

Organized by Franklin Parks and Recreation, the event is intended to kick-start one of the most eventful summers the city has ever seen.

“It’s been fun planning for the amphitheater, because it’s a clean slate. We have our concert series this year with nine different concerts, a movie series planned, Arts at the Amp where we’ll have different groups perform down there,” said Holly Johnston, events and program manager for Franklin Parks and Recreation. “We can make this space what we want.”

Franklin Parks, working with Festival Country Indiana, the county’s tourism wing, has been working on a summer kickoff event for the past few years. While pandemic safety concerns had put those plans on hold, this year set up perfectly to host a new kind of festival, Johnston said.

Coupled with the unveiling of the new amphitheater, everything just fell into place.

“I really wanted to have a grand opening weekend,” Johnston said. “We wanted to open it up with a bang.”

For Festival Country Indiana, the new event fit perfectly into their central goals, said Kenneth Kosky, executive director for Festival Country.

“One of Festival Country’s goals as an organization is to help create new festivals and to strengthen existing ones,” he said. “We talked with Franklin Parks & Recreation and both organizations were excited to create a festival that had a new, different feel to go along with the first season of events at the new amphitheater.”

The parks department and Festival Country Indiana envision a yearly kick-off event, with a rotating theme each time, Johnston said.

“We’ll still have all of our regular festivals down there, like the Firecracker Festival and Fall Festival and Halloweentown. But this will be one special night where we can do something totally different each year,” she said.

During the luau, food trucks and a beer and wine garden will be available for attendees. Tiki-themed decor will help establish the tropical atmosphere, which organizers plan to amplify by passing out free leis, Kosky said.

The centerpiece will be the musical performance, though.

Parrots of the Caribbean is a Buffett tribute act, bringing the Key West sound by way of Dayton, Ohio. They have been performing Buffett’s greatest hits at festivals, bars and amphitheaters for the past 16 years. Brought together by the free-wheeling love of the music, the members have created a stage show that rivals the Parrothead-themed parties of their inspiration.

Lead singer and founder Dave Albrecht, dressed in an all-white sea captain’s outfit, croons around inflatable palm trees, grass skirts and coconuts on stage. The band brings audience members on stage to hula and break out in spontaneous conga lines.

“We haven’t had them here for a long time. They used to play here on the Fourth of July, but it’s been a few years since then,” Johnston said.

To truly make it a weekend-long event, the city is hosting its grand opening of the amphitheater with a ribbon cutting in the afternoon followed by the performance by Blue River Band.

Blending country, rock, blues and other elements together, the Greenwood-based band stays true to the grit that makes country music great.

“They are one of our faves, and have a huge following. It’s fitting that they’ll open it up, since they play every year and are such a big hit,” Johnston said.


Young’s Creek Park grand opening celebration

Where: 237 W. Monroe St., Franklin


The day will kick-off at 10 a.m. with five ribbon cuttings celebrating different parts of the park and the local businesses that helped make them possible with donations.

Food trucks will be open for lunch from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., reopening again ahead of the concerts at 4:30 p.m. and closing at 10 p.m.

The opening act, Gavin Curry, will play from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and the main act, Blue River Band will take the stage at 7 p.m.


Festival Country Luau

Food trucks are open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The opening act, Indyca, plays 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and the main act, Parrots of the Caribbean takes the stage at 7 p.m.


Amphitheater things to know

All concerts are free for the first year.

There is no seating on the amphitheater lawn. Concert goers may bring chairs or blankets, but tents are not permitted.

Coolers are not permitted. Food and beverages can be purchased from vendors at the park.

Alcohol can be purchased by the glass from three vendors: Shale Creek Brewing, Franklin Elks Club and Mallow Run Winery.

Alcohol vendors will operate on tickets instead of currency. Tickets are purchased from Franklin Parks and Recreation for six dollars each. Tickets are only valid for the day they are purchased.

Source: Franklin Parks and Recreation