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Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Real fun music with Matt's Family Jam at Great Allentown Fair

Matt Rolf is in a real jam... a Family Jam! It's Matt's Family Jam and it's heading toward the Lehigh Valley for a week of fun music and entertainment at the Great Allentown Fair. It's a real family affair with Rolf and his wife, Lisa, along with their three children, performing a variety show beginning Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., and several times a day during the run of the fair through Labor Day Monday.

"Real family, real music, real fun," is how Rolf describes the show that's been traveling throughout the country and entertaining audiences at major fairs, festivals and other events that attract families. This will be the Rolf's first time in the Philadelphia area, though Matt and his sister, Robyn, toured as a duo in the early 1980s and performed at Knoebels. He later worked with the Jim Stafford Show in Branson, Mo.

During our phone interview, the Rolfs had just performed at the Ohio State Fair and were setting up stage at the Wisconsin State Fair. Rolf described his dance party as "movin' and groovin'" with hula hoops and music ranging from rock ‘n roll to oldies, jazz, swing, country and gospel. Audience participation plays a big part, he added. Together as family, the Rolfs share a love and enthusiasm for making music. Dad plays bass, fiddle and does vocals, while Mom plays the saxophone and also sings. Son Collin, 14, plays guitar, daughter Adrienne, 11, plays keyboards, mandolin and sings, and son Benjamin, 8, plays the drums.

Rolf doubles as driver of the family's motor home and attached 32-foot trailer, which carries two stages. Family pets also are in tow – Lola, a 90-pound Chocolate Lab, and Buddy, a 20-pound Dachshund Mix. The Rolfs have been traveling almost year-round for the past three years, with a schedule of 120 dates this year alone, quite an increase from their first year with 30 dates. Rolf said performances from January through April are pretty much at winter fairs in Florida, while mid-June through October covers the rest of the country. Back home in Branson, he and his wife are involved in concert productions.

Modern technology allows the Rolf children to be home-schooled by Lisa, who taught instrumental music for nearly 15 years. They're also getting "road-schooled."

"The kids have really gained an appreciation of how wonderful our country is," Rolf said.

Prior to their Great Allentown Fair engagement, their summer tour included Iowa, Indiana and Kentucky. Future stops are Texas and Georgia.

"When we come off the road in the fall, it's a huge downer," Rolf said. "But we get to catch up with our friends. …I'm really blessed with a family that enjoys being together and working to encourage other families to find something and go do it."

The Great Allentown Fair is held on the fairgrounds at 302 N. 17th St., between Liberty and Chew streets, with rides and amusements, an outdoor farm and livestock show, 4-H and FFA exhibits, Farm-to-Table chef demonstrations and culinary contests, and a Music-Variety Show Tent. Evening headliner concerts include John Mayer, Luke Bryan, Toby Keith, and Jeff Dunham.

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The Sands Lehigh Valley Air Show, said to be one of the few air shows taking place in Pennsylvania this year, will be held at the Lehigh Valley International Airport on Saturday and Sunday. Among the acts slated to perform is the Black Diamond Jet Team, a four ship aerobatic civilian-owned jet team based in Lakeland, Fla. With L-39 "Albatross" aircraft, the team will perform precise maneuvers taught to military pilots. Team member Jared Isaacman is founder/CEO of Harbortouch, formerly United Bank Card, Inc., based in Allentown.

The air show also will feature flight performances and sky diving demonstrations, the Vintage Dreams Classic Car Show, and displays by the Lehigh Valley Flying Club, Gateway Aviation flight school at Queen City Airport, World War II era air craft and corporate aircraft. Gates open at 9 a.m., with performances from noon to 4 p.m. The air show entrance will be on Race Street, just off Airport Road.

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Clair Neamand, director of the Summer Harmony men's chorus of the Lehigh Valley, is gearing up for its annual end-of-summer concert on Friday, 7:30 p.m., at the Parkland High School Auditorium, with special guest, the Allentown Band.

"With the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, I thought it appropriate to present a concert, along with the Allentown Band, consisting mainly of patriotic songs and songs of the Civil War," said Neamand, who is retired from Parkland School District as music teacher and choral director. He teams with Allentown Band Conductor Ronald Demkee in presenting the program. Selections will include "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," "Two Brothers," and "Goober Peas." Of the latter song, Neamand explained that near the end of the war, the southern soldiers were running out of rations and had to eat mostly peanuts to survive.

Selections by the Allentown Band will include "Gentle Annie," with Euphonium soloist Jason Ham, and "To Heal a Nation," which will incorporate a reading of the Gettysburg Address narrated by Emile Guida.

Neamand added that one of the combined selections to be performed will be "Blades of Grass and Pure White Stones." U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R-Utah), a Pennsylvania native, was a collaborator in writing the patriotic song.

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The 35th annual Wheels of Time Rod & Custom Jamboree takes place Friday through Sunday, beginning at 7 a.m., at Macungie Memorial Park, 50 N. Poplar St., Macungie. Sponsored by the Street Rod Association, proceeds from the event will benefit more than two dozen charitable organizations and scholarship programs. Non-perishable food items brought to the event will be donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

More than 1,500 custom cars and street rods, 1982 or older, are expected on site. Highlights include Haunt Rods from TV's "The Munsters," with "Eddie Munster," Butch Patrick, on hand for autographs. There also will be arts and crafts, auctions, and kids' activities. The annual Friday Night Cruise through Emmaus is planned for 6:30 p.m., beginning from the Allen Organ parking lot in Macungie to Lower Macungie Road and through Emmaus. Evening entertainment includes The Large Flowerheads on Friday and Flamin' Dick and the Hot Rods on Saturday.

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