Gainesville State College took on the atmosphere of a summer picnic Friday evening as thousands turned out for fireworks, fun and, of course, music.
"Give me the beat, boys, and free my soul, I want to get lost in your rock and roll and drift away," Jerry Dale of the East River Drive band crooned, the classic hit filling the G.W. Bailey Amphitheatre with soulful sound.
More than 3,000 people convened on the wide expanse of lawn to enjoy the annual Starlight Concert and Fireworks Show at Gainesville State College. The event as organized by the Gainesville State College Alumni Association to raise scholarship money for the school.
Some families pitched umbrellas and spread out picnic blankets for a good chat before the show, while others let loose by playing with Frisbees and beach balls.
The O'Dells have made the Starlight Concert an annual event and a family affair, with some 25 members of the extended family staking their chairs and blankets in a prime location for viewing fireworks.
"We keep coming back every time to sit and be together and enjoy the music," Paige O'Dell said. "I've run into about 50 different people I know that I haven't seen in years."
Dale, the lead singer of East River Drive Band, said the band draws on such sources as the Swingin' Medallions and the Temptations to produce a sound he describes as straight out of the beach music scene of Myrtle Beach, S.C.
He added that the family oriented atmosphere of the Starlight Concert is a big draw for the band.
"I enjoy the interaction with the crowd," he said. "We let them be a part of it."
With the band's encouragement, people began to join in on the next song, drifting away in the music and sunny, summerlike evening.