Annual Rock 4 Tots event to expand to bigger venue in 2018

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The 11th year of the Rock 4 Tots fundraiser finds the event moving to a new location.

After formerly taking place at Rayz Sports Bar in Clinton Township, the event — which raises money for toys for the Clinton Township Goodfellows’ “No Child Without a Christmas” endeavor — has a new home at Freddy’s Bar & Grill, 40000 Garfield Road in Clinton Township.

Also, rather than taking place on one December day, the event will now get two days to entertain the public. It will start at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, running until 2 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, before picking back up again later that day and going from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The event is organized and produced by co-founder James Klapp, 101 WRIF’s “Screamin” Scott Randall, Howie Herula and organizer Joe Evangelista.

Evangelista, who has been around since about the second year, said the venue and date changes are a result of more popularity within the community. He said the “amazing” annual event changed mostly as a result of space, especially with the live entertainment.

At Rayz last year, about 34 bands and musicians took the stage. This year, with two allotted days, there will be 58 total acts that will each perform 20-minute sets — which include one Christmas song, original tracks and covers. Artists will play acoustic or electric.

“It starts first and foremost with the bands and the artists,” Evangelista said. “Every year, we get probably three times more requests for artists than we have spots. It’s a madhouse. It gets busier and busier every year. We try to accommodate everyone we can.”

He said he recently went through old Rock 4 Tots lineups, recognizing faces like Jeff Gutt — the current singer of the Stone Temple Pilots — and members of Uncle Kracker’s band.

“It’s quite the undertaking to get everyone in a spot they can come and play,” Evangelista said. “For a few days, it’s total chaos. This year went really well.”

Last year, the event raised a record amount of $9,141.

Clinton Township Goodfellows President Paul Silvestri admitted that his organization will “take whatever we can get.” Evangelista said there’s no specific amount attempted to be reached each year, but expectations admittedly do rise.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Silvestri said. “Changing the venue and adding a second day means the event is growing in popularity and allows them to bring in more acts to perform.”

Revamping their website and having a larger voice is paying dividends, he added.

“Our popularity, our presence in the community has grown, has become well-known,” he said. “I’d probably say (it’s grown) the last two or three years.”

Santa Claus will be on hand both days from 2 to 6 p.m. The annual raffle baskets and 50-50s will return, as will donated guitars — one acoustic and one electric — from Guitar Center.

A new aspect is an artists’ raffle basket, in which everyone who performs donates some kind of item: a CD, a T-shirt, a poster, and more.

“Every year, it just gets bigger and bigger and the snowball effect goes on,” Evangelista said.

Admission costs either $5 or a new, unwrapped toy for the kids. Donations can be mailed directly to the Clinton Township Goodfellows, c/o Rock 4 Tots, P.O. Box 380643, Clinton Township, MI 48036. Checks must be made payable to the Clinton Township Goodfellows. For more information on the event or where to send money, visit www.rock4tots.org or www.clintontownshipgoodfellows.com.