Brownwood July 4 show shifts away from Developer’s philosophy of free entertainment

The Villages Entertainment Department is apparently going in a different direction when it comes to free shows at the community’s three town squares.

Traditionally, holiday shows like the Fourth of July performances scheduled for Thursday night have been free and offered equal access to all Villagers. That way of thinking followed the mantra of both Founder Harold Schwartz and Villages architect H. Gary Morse, who often made it quite clear that all Villagers – regardless of their income levels – should be able to enjoy things like free golf for life on executive golf courses and free town square entertainment 365 days a year, barring inclement weather.

Johnny Wild and the Delights, with Andy Matchett singing as Mr. Wild. The group was paid $1,550 per show, partly through taxpayer money, to perform at Brownwood and Lake Sumter Landing last year.

But that philosophy apparently is no longer valid with the July 4 show at Brownwood, dubbed the “All American Brews and Cruise.” While The Villages Entertainment website says the show is free, it also encourages Villagers to spend $50 apiece, $80 per couple or $225 for a table of six to enjoy the event, which will feature Johnny Wild and the Delights, a popular Orlando-based band that has performed at several venues in The Villages and was paid $1,550 per show last year at Lake Sumter Landing and Brownwood.

Those purchasing the “VIP Experience” are being promised VIP Tent access, reserved seating, “direct access” to the dance floor, appetizers, two free drink tickets and a VIP cash bar.

The Villages Cheerleaders have been a staple in July 4 shows in The Villages.

It’s unclear what kind of access those who didn’t purchase the tickets – the website claims the VIP Experience is sold out – will have to the dance area in front of the stage or what seating areas will be available to them. It’s also unclear where the VIP tent will be located. And it could be considered precedent-setting if Villagers who didn’t buy the VIP Experience tickets aren’t afforded the same enjoyments as those who did, given the fact that The Villages receives a significant amount of taxpayer money from Sumter County to subsidize town square entertainment at Brownwood and Lake Sumter Landing.

The Brownwood show also promises to include market vendors, a beer tent featuring “Villages brews,” an information tent where residents can enter a chance drawing and a “new Projector light show,” which apparently is designed to take the place of traditional fireworks shows like the one that was held Wednesday night at the Wildwood soccer fields.

Whitney Abell-Couch, a singer with the band Johnny Wild and the Delights, belts out ‘Gimme Some Lovin’ last July at Lake Sumter Landing.

Thursday’s event also promises shows by resident performance groups Sugar N Spice, The Villages Cheerleaders and The Villages Twirlers and Drum Corps. And several food trucks – Up in Smoke, Fat Ones, Main Lobster and Papa’s Grill – are supposed to parked around the square. It’s also unclear how those food trucks are involved in the show given the variety of restaurants renting space from The Villages throughout Brownwood.

But it does appear that food trucks may be a new trend in The Villages. Late last month, it was announced that the Developer was dispatching two trucks – Ednas’ Provisions & Vittles and Rita’s Cocina Mexicana – to serve food at Cattail Recreation Area in the Village of Marsh Bend in an attempt to satisfy the appetites of golfers at the Marsh View Pitch & Putt during breakfast and lunch. The food trucks will stay open into the evening and Ednas’ reportedly will be serving liquor and may offer live music.