Stadiums, arenas and event centers across the country were forced to close their doors beginning in March of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To slow the spread of the virus, venues ceased operations and by proxy, musicians lost their in-person connection with their fans.
As the closures occurred, Brandon Miller, owner of Falconwood Park in Bellevue, was already trying to find a way to bring revenue to his business and entertainment to the masses. Miller started researching drive-in concerts.
“My friend gave me the idea, and it was a total head-smacker,” Miller said. “We do concerts at the park, and we do drive-in movies. We combined two of the things we were already doing and created a business model for the COVID season.”
For Miller and his staff, the pandemic served as the third setback they have gone through in four years. The Falconwood Park team got to work, just as it did following tornado damage in 2017 and the floods that ripped across the state in 2019.
“When all of this started, I said to myself ‘Well, here we go again,’” Miller said. “We’re no strangers to adversity. Going through what we’ve been through these last few years, we knew we had to get the ball rolling on ideas to get through this.”
Musicians like Kris Lager of the Kris Lager Band thrive on live shows. The opportunity to get back on stage was a proposition he could not turn down.
“Once we knew it was safe, it was a no-brainer,” Lager said. “Brandon is a music lover, and he was one of the first people to think of the drive-in idea. We were on board from the beginning with it.”
The chance for a musician to showcase their art for a live crowd is sacred. Falconwood Park’s drive-in shows allowed Lager to have that opportunity again.
“It was pretty emotional, I probably teared up four or five times,” Lager said. “It was weird, instead of a field of people, it was a field of cars honking their horns. I remember closing the night with a song I had just written and I could barely get through it. It was a beautiful thing.”
Miller credited Falconwood Park’s outdoor nature for the ability for him and his staff to start producing shows again. He said this serves as an advantage for the park compared to other entertainment venues.
“With an outdoor venue, people are safer and can feel safer when attending an event,” Miller said. “We’re working on being able to get people to see movies and concerts in a safe and fun way.”
Miller and his team were one of the first in the nation to hold drive-in concerts, and larger acts across the country have followed in their footsteps. Major acts such as Blake Shelton and Garth Brooks played drive-in shows throughout the country, and Lager credits Miller for getting the ball rolling in the state early.
“Having someone like Brandon on the frontlines saying ‘we can do this safely’ helped open things back up for us,” Lager said. “It really made it possible for live music to happen in some fashion.”
However, as a new season approaches, Miller is looking to the future, rather than the past. He said the mission for him and the park itself remains the same: to provide people with an entertainment experience that they can enjoy.
“We’ve been through a lot, but we’re also really fortunate,” Miller said. “Failure is not an option for me or my family. No matter what, we’ll keep going, finding ways to do this.”