Thousands enjoy first Spirit Summer Festival in Darby Township
The crisp, well-synced dance moves, recognizable music, and, of course, unmistakable falsetto of Russell Thompkins, Jr. brought an estimated 3,000 concert goers back to the 1970’s as Thompkins and his New Stylistics performed Saturday at the culmination of the Spirit Summer Festival, which took place at Studevan Field in Darby Township.
Dressed in matching light purple suits, Russell Thompkins, Jr. and the New Stylistics performed hits such as “Betcha By Golly Wow,” “You’re a Big Girl Now,” “You are Everything (and Everything is You),” “Stop, Look, Listen,” “People Make the World Go Round,” and of course, “You Make Me Feel Brand New.”
“I traveled from the New Jersey shore to see them,” said Monica Beacon. “I was a big fan back in the early 70’s and am I glad I came today. It was a distance to travel, but very much worth it. I love Russell Thompkins, Jr.’s voice.”
Thompkins and his group headlined a day filled with music, dancing, rides, vendors and food. Organized and produced by The Spirit newspaper, the festival was the brainchild of Spirit publisher/editor Paul A. Bennett.
With help from a myriad of people including his staff, reporters and a special committee formed for planning the event, Bennett said he hopes to make the Spirit Summer Festival an annual event with plans to host a calendar of events throughout the year.
“This began as an idea and really started taking shape in February,” said Bennett. “The southeast portion of Delaware County really has no signature event to unify the communities. Chester has the Riverfront Ramble, Upper Darby has the Greek Festival, Haverford has a Music Festival and Media has all sorts of things, but the tens of thousands of people in the 12 municipalities that make up southeast Delco had nothing. So we really see this festival as a way of drawing people together and allowing them to showcase and celebrate each other.
“As the months passed the idea crystallized and today was the culmination of a lot of hard work,” he said.
Other entertainment included Joe Kane and his group, Raisin’ Kane; the Gospel Disciples, Kollective Talent, and noted area Zumba leader Monika Thomas-Rhodes. Popular WDAS-FM radio personality Patty Jackson introduced the headliners after saluting The Spirit and stressing that all people need to stay informed by buying the newspaper and listening to the radio.