SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

July 2, 2013

Van Pelt to belt it out before fireworks in Danvers

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — If the weather holds, there will be fireworks in the sky and on the stage tomorrow night.

“American Idol” top 10 contestant Erika Van Pelt and her band are scheduled to headline the stage show from 8 to 9 p.m., before the rockets light up the night sky at the Danvers Family Festival’s fireworks. Her set will feature songs from her upcoming debut album.

Rhode Island’s Van Pelt is a season 11 finalist of “American Idol” and was also a judge for the annual Danvers Idol singing contest, held at Danvers High on Friday. Contestant Alexandra Valenti, 17, of Manchester was crowned the new Danvers Idol.

“I’m definitely excited about playing on the third,” Van Pelt said in an email. “I’ve heard from several sources that the Danvers Fireworks is especially good!”

Van Pelt, a musician used to working holidays, said she is excited to have the opportunity to watch the fireworks after she performs. Her performance will include some songs from her new record and some covers everyone knows. She recently filmed a music video in Peabody, and her single, “Listen Learn Then Delete,” is being released this month on iTunes.

Valenti, an incoming senior at Manchester Essex Regional High School, beat out nine other finalists for the top prize of $500. The win also gave Valenti a chance to wow the crowd with her voice at the fireworks.

The stage show, which kicks off at 6 p.m., is also meant to entertain the crowd as it files into a fenced-in Plains Park. New security measures have been put in place due to the Boston Marathon bombings.

There will be three security checkpoints to the park at 55 Conant St., behind Holten Richmond Middle School: on Porter Street, at the main entrance on Lane Parkway and toward the rear of the school, according to Danvers police Sgt. Robert Bettencourt. After officials sweep the park, it will open at 4 p.m.

Each gate will have three or four lanes to allow people in, Bettencourt said. Those who do not have diaper bags or personal items with them should get in smoothly, he said. Officers will check the lines for people who have items that need to be screened. Police will strictly enforce the no cooler and backpack rules, Food and drinks must be carried in clear plastic bags.

Security will be provided by more than 50 detail officers. Police will also use the school’s surveillance system that monitors the park. State police will provide a bomb-sniffing dog.

“We just want to make sure it’s safe for everyone,” Bettencourt said.

Along with Van Pelt and Valenti, the stage show will include a lot of local talent: 2012 Danvers Idol Stephanie Parsons of Peabody; the band Venus, whose members include Jacyn Tremblay (a finals judge for 2013 Danvers Idol) and Peter Tentindo; Singer Ashley Johnson of Danvers, who judged this year’s Danvers Idol preliminaries; Ed Wiles of Danvers and a member of the Joey Scott band; Stephanie McCarthy of Peabody; and Kate Eppers of Danvers, who has worked with Cape Ann Big Band.

After the stage show, there will be a patriotic program at 9 p.m. The winner of the 50/50 raffle will be announced at 9:15. The so-called “best fireworks north of Boston” display is scheduled to start at 9:30 p.m.

Valenti said she is excited to perform at the fireworks. She started doing open mike shows about a year ago and has gotten a lot of gigs after singing at her English teacher’s wedding last July. She often donates money she earns from shows to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer foundation.

Why did she try out for Danvers Idol in the first place?

“My friend who was at an open mike night messaged me and said I should see what happens,” Valenti said.

She also credits her music teachers, Jen Tobiasz of Danvers and Lisa Cheney of Salem, and thanked her high school band director, Joe Sokol, for letting her sing with the jazz band this past school year.

“He helped me gain a lot of confidence, and I gained a lot from him,” Valenti said.

Valenti said she was thrilled to meet Van Pelt in person.

“Erika was awesome,” Valenti said. “It was really surreal to meet her in person. She was someone I watched on TV, and I think she is a great role model.”

Valenti would love to try out for a spot on another singing talent show, “The Voice.”

Kenny Lewis of Danvers and Mixed Emotions Music works as one of the producers of Van Pelt’s record. Lewis, a member of the Danvers Family Festival board, is also in charge of the stage show. He asked Van Pelt to judge Danvers Idol and perform at the fireworks stage show, and she agreed.

For those who get hungry waiting for the fireworks and listening to the musical acts, the inaugural Danvers Food Truck Festival will feature traveling eateries such as The Cookie Monstah, Grilled Cheese Nation and Lobsta Love, to name a few.

For more information on the contest and Danvers Family Festival, visit www.DanversFamilyFestival.com. If there is a postponement, the rain date for the event is Friday, July 5.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.