News Column

Treasure Coast Newspapers, Stuart, Fla., Russ Lemmon column

July 3, 2014

By Russ Lemmon, Treasure Coast Newspapers, Stuart, Fla.

July 03--Kristen O'Connor is doing double duty on Friday.

The 2014 "American Idol" contestant will have roles in two different Fourth of July celebrations in Indian River County.

In Sebastian, she'll be a part of an event that is rich in tradition -- the 44th annual holiday parade, which starts at 8:30 a.m.

In Vero Beach, she'll be the featured performer for something that may be the start of a Fourth of July tradition -- live music at Riverside Park. She is scheduled to be on the stage from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Angie Schepers, the marketing manager of Mulligan's, is glad to see Vero Beach add live music to the holiday mix. (Mulligan's donated $10,000 to offset the costs for the city's fireworks show.) She was involved in the planning of this year's festivities.

"It might be a one-year thing," she said. "We'll see how it goes."

Rob Slezak, director of the Vero Beach Recreation Department, predicts 4,000 to 5,000 people will be in the park when O'Connor is performing.

Schepers says she pushed for the addition of live music at Riverside Park because she has fond memories of Fourth of July celebrations in her hometown of Johnson City, Tennessee.

"I just think anytime you have live music, it makes for a fun family event," she said.

The popular band Crooked Creek -- which plays mostly contemporary country music -- will get the Riverside Park party started at 4:30 p.m.

"In my head, it looks great," said Schepers of the menu of live music. "We'll see how it goes."

In Sebastian, the live music at Riverview Park will begin at 11:30 a.m. Plan B will start things off, followed by gospel music (2 p.m.), the Second Chance Band (3 p.m.) and the Bobby Owens Band (6 p.m.).

The Sebastian Freedom Festival is a Fourth of July tradition in the county. It's the signature event of the Sebastian Lions Club.

So, by adding live music, is Vero Beach stepping on Sebastian's turf?

"The county is plenty big enough for both," Schepers said. "I hope we don't upset Sebastian -- that was never our intention.

"I think there's something for everybody."

O'Connor, 26, had her first post "American Idol" concert in late April at Capt Hiram's in Sebastian. A near-capacity crowd was on hand at the sand bar.

She graduated in December from the University of Central Florida with a degree in nursing. However, she has decided to pursue a career in music.

"I feel really inspired and ready for a career in music," she said via email. "I believe that God gave me this gift and passion for music, and I'm no stranger to hard work. I think I'm definitely on the right path now and I believe it will happen."

She hopes to release her first single, as well as a music video to accompany it, before the end of the year. By then, she anticipates moving to California.

As a graduate of Sebastian River High School, she's proud to be riding in a car in Sebastian'sFourth of July parade. A crowd of 10,000 is expected to line Indian River Drive.

A few hours later, she'll make the 13-mile trip to Vero Beach to perform at Riverside Park.

"I'm so excited," she said by phone on Wednesday. "I'm working with local musicians for this one. It's going to be a lot of fun. We'll be playing a lot of upbeat songs."

Schepers says she's not worried about too many people showing up for the live music.

"Riverside Park is a huge place," she said.

The more, the merrier -- especially for an event like this.

Treasure and Space Coast Radio will start playing music after O'Connor's performance. There will be a countdown leading up to the start of the fireworks show.

It's good to see Vero Beach spread its wings a little bit and offer live music.

As Schepers put it, "It's kind of boring to just have fireworks."

Russ Lemmon is a columnist for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. This column reflects his opinion. Contact him at 772-978-2205 or


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Source: Treasure Coast Newspapers (Stuart, FL)

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