What Will We Do Without The Bemus Bay Pops?

If you talk to Bemus Point Mayor Bryan Dahlberg, he’ll remind you there’s plenty to love about his village. After all, people were visiting Bemus Point long before the Bemus Bay Pops came around and he says businesses and community organizers and visitors are looking forward to another lovely summer in the famous tree-lined enclave.

But amid a lot of speculation, a May 11 press release sealed the fate of the concert series for the 2018 season: there will be no concert schedule this summer.

The organizers say they hope this summer’s cancellation is not the end of the popular concerts but merely the beginning of their “second act.”

I hope so too.

During a phone call last week, the mayor explained they had two areas in Bemus that could potentially accommodate the floating dock this summer-both in the village park. He reached out to the Pop’s board of directors several times but never got a response.

“We supported the Pops for twenty years,” the mayor said. “We cleaned up after the performances, handled the parking, but it was all okay because it was a class act. They did a great job keeping it a nice, well-run operation. We’re terribly saddened to see it leave. It’s too bad it’s not going to be in Bemus. The business people relied on the numbers of visitors that came to enjoy the entertainment. It’s really a big kick in the side. It truly is.”

The mayor noted a number of different venues were being considered as a new home for the Pops including Celeron, Mayville and Long Point State Park, but it’s not clear what’s in store for the concert series.

Dahlberg said the Hotel Lenhart has been fielding a lot of phone calls from out of town guests looking for the concert schedule, finding it absent when checking the Pop’s website. The fate of the Pops has been up in the air since Dan Dalpra, chairman of Floating Stage Productions and owner of The Italian Fisherman restaurant, announced he was selling the restaurant.

“We have tirelessly searched other communities, contacted local and state officials to no avail,” Dalpra wrote in a press release that is posted on bemusbaypops.com.

“The outpouring comments of love, support and disappointment we have received inspires us to work even harder during this transition. Visitors have traveled from all around the world to catch a glimpse of this incredibly unique venue we are blessed to have in our backyard. Families plan their vacations around this summer program,” Dalpra wrote.

A response to an email sent to the Pop’s board was not returned by press time.

Disappointed is the operative word here. The concert series had become a special part of many people’s summers, as we collected our lawn chairs and our sweatshirts and set off to spend an afternoon or an evening listening to our favorite cover band, maybe stopping at a Bemus restaurant for lunch or dinner.

You could walk down to the porch at the Lenhart or the deck at the Casino afterwards for a nightcap, or you’d head home in your boat under a sky full of stars. What the concert series brought to Bemus Point is immeasurable; it belonged there. I’m having a hard time picturing it anywhere else.

“It’s like Mickey Mouse has left the kingdom,” my husband said, meaning the iconic concerts made an already special place even more special. When something like the Pops is that important to a community and to its summer visitors, it seems incomprehensible to many that they couldn’t find a way to make it work.

And, sadly, it looks like our historic ferry will be out of commission this summer too.

Dahlberg wanted to leave our conversation on a positive note, and so he reminded me of some of the great events happening in Bemus this summer, including the opening of the new Bemus Point Golf Club & Tap House, with its line up of local brews, craft food and a beautiful renovation.

And he says some local businesses may be vamping up their musical events to fill in for the missing Pop concerts, along with other yearly events, like the boat and car shows. The Italian Fisherman will reopen as “The Fish,” and there’s Ellicotville Brewing Company, and the excellent chicken wings and fish fries at the See-Zurh House. The Casino has been doing some renovations as well.

Here’s the takeaway: you can take the concerts out of Bemus, but you can’t take the spirit of Bemus out of Bemus.

So take a look at the village website, sign up for a 5K run, visit the excellent craft fair this summer and plan to continue making Bemus an important part of your summer plans.

The food is good, the shops are wonderful and summer days go by quickly.

And let’s keep our fingers crossed that next year, the music will return.