Bemus Bay Pops “Benefits Everybody”

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Audience enjoying concerts on the floating stage.

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Article Contributed by
Emily Wynne

An economic impact study showed that Bemus Bay Pops brought 12 million dollars of economic development to Bemus Point and the surrounding towns. The floating stage and the Bemus Bay Pops concert series “not only had a cultural impact on the region, it had an economic impact,” Dan Dalpra, owner of the Italian Fisherman restaurant and founder of Bemus Bay Pops, said.

Dan Dalpra Bemus Bay Pops founder
Dan Dalpra
Bemus Bay Pops founder

Bemus Bay Pops started in 1997 on the roof of the Italian Fisherman, when Dalpra wanted to put on an end-of-summer event. He believes that music and art bring people together regardless of socioeconomic class, political party or religious beliefs. But he noticed that many people lacked immersion in the arts.

“A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to hear a symphony and to hear them play music they’re familiar with,” Dalpra said. He and his wife, Sue Dalpra, wanted to create a show that appealed to many people, and presented them with a symphony orchestra — which plays both classical and pop music — they would not otherwise be able to experience.

For five years, the group called the Bemus Bay Pops, performed on the roof of the Italian Fisherman. Daplra wanted to expand the program and bring new excitement to Bemus, so he started brainstorming. “No one had ever heard of a floating stage before.” Dalpra and his associates developed the floating stage to take advantage of normally underutilized space: the shallow water of Lake Chautauqua.

Audience enjoying concerts on the floating stage.
Audience enjoying concerts on the floating stage.

The floating stage itself, at 3,600 square feet, has no trouble holding a full orchestra. In fact, it can support over 70,000 pounds, approximately the weight of an 18-wheeler semi-truck. Waves rock the stage slightly, but many air-filled pods underneath keep it stable and afloat.

In the winter the stage goes on vacation. If it stayed anchored near the edge of the lake, ice would form around the edges and slowly crush the stage. Instead, it is floated down the lake at the end of each season to Holiday Harbor in Celeron, NY, where it resides until spring.

Dalpra refers to his concert series as “a nice new addition to the area that benefits everybody.” And benefit everybody it does. The 12 million dollars of economic stimulation came from what Dalpra terms “the trickle-down effect.” Short-term revenue is created when performers and concert-goers stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and bars and visit local establishments.

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Many people fall in love with the area, like Dalpra did. Families make vacation plans, buy or rent summer homes and keep boats along the lake. Though the Pops draws people in, what makes them stay are the other attractions in the area: skiing, wineries, microbreweries and the Lucy Desi Museum.

Family drives Dalpra’s dreams for Bemus Point. He and his wife raised their family in Chautauqua County, where they have lived for 34 years. Consequently, he is invested in the future of his own children and the future of the community. He hopes that the massive economic spinoff of the Bemus Bay Pops will make young people want to move back to the area to start careers, businesses and families.

The Italian Fisherman employs more than 150 people, many of whom are students funding their college educations. Bemus Bay Pops offers Cultural Excellence Scholarships to high school seniors who show promise in a discipline of the arts. Apply online at http://www.bemusbaypops.com/scholarships.html by July 30.

Popular tribute bands and national recording artists grace the stage with all genres in more than 50 shows throughout the summer. The Labor Day finale, on September 3, features fireworks and a celebration of Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday. The Bemus Bay Pops symphonic orchestra will perform a variety of music.

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The floating stage doesn’t just present concerts. It also presents Lake Night at the Movies, free Tuesday night screenings, presenting family-friendly movies on both sides of the stage.

Chautauqua Lake Choice, a vocal competition, gives local vocalists a chance to compete for cash and studio recording time. The contestants receive professional mentoring and the opportunity to perform in front of live audiences. The competition’s round of performances begins on July 11.

Come see the Chautauqua Lake Water Ski Circus Show, featuring the award-winning Chippewa Lake Water Ski Show Team. Circovation! — a theatrical street-type performance that fuses vaudeville and traditional circus entertainment — accompanies the Ski Show Team from the floating stage. The free multi-facet shows are held on July 16 and August 6.

The Pops sponsors free waterski lessons at The Lawson Center on the morning of both performances. These lessons are open to anyone over the age of five, no experience needed. One student will perform in each Water Ski Circus Show. Dalpra encourages anyone who has ever had the desire to waterski to sign up in advance, as spaces are limited.

Nineteen years after its conception, Bemus Bay Pops is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. “We could’ve never done any of this without the generosity of the sponsors we have,” Dalpra said. Many local businesses donate time and money to help make the various shows happen. The concert series unites these businesses in the community under a common goal of bringing arts to the people.

For more details, including a full event schedule, visit bemusbaypops.com.