Changing dreams to chase for Chasin’ Mason

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When Chasin’ Mason first formed about 11 years ago, they named themselves after a highly sought-after studio musician in Nashville.

Brent Mason is one of the most recorded guitarists in history.

The name grew out of a desire to “hit that gold ring in music,” said Billy O’Dwyer, the country rock band’s lead singer.

“Over the years, it just turned into we want to be the best musicians we can be, the best band we can be,” he said. “Now it’s more about being the best men we can be, the best brother, friend, husband, neighbor. It’s just about presenting yourself in the best light you can.”

And that’s what the popular Wisconsin-based band intends to do at a performance July 18 for Woodstock’s inaugural Summer in the Park. Running through July 20 at Emricson Park, the festival features, music, food, a carnival, children’s activities and entertainment, a bags tournament, a movie in the park and other events throughout the weekend.

With a new album “Real Life Real Loud,” Chasin’ Mason describes its music as influenced by everything from Merle Haggard to John Mellencamp to U2 and Keith Urban.

O’Dwyer joined the band a few months after it formed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by answering an online advertisement for a singer.

A construction worker, he quit his job a couple of months later to devote himself to Chasin’ Mason.

“We just kind of approached the music in a pretty unbridled fashion,” he said. “It’s the presentation of it, staying true to yourself and not trying to be something else... and kind of approaching it with the same teenage angst that got you to fall in love with Metallica ...

“We’ve been successful for no good reason. We just kind of refused to give up.”

The band has worked in Nashville, and members have thought about pursuing a career there, but they prefer to be close to their families and aren’t willing to sacrifice their personal lives, O’Dwyer said.

O’Dwyer, who wrote most of the songs on the band’s album, said he’s “living the dream” simply being able to make a living performing. He pointed out the song “Lost and Found,” which is somewhat of a personal account of his life.

“I’ve literally made some of the worst decisions a person can and beg for forgiveness on a daily basis because of it,” he said. “At the same time, if there’s a party, I’m the first dude up on the table. I just try not to get arrested as much as I used to.”

Another song, “Heartland,” is the band’s calling card, he said, and all about the Midwest.

About 75 percent of the band’s songs in performances are cover songs, he said.

“Sometimes you hear a song and you’re like, ‘I want to sing the sh-- out of it,” he said.

“If you look at our band, you don’t know if we’re having a good time or about to fight soembody. It’s a really intense group of guys,” he said. “We’re literally like brothers. Sometimes we don’t get along, but whatever happens, when we get on the stage, it’s about the music, and people see that and fall in love with the passion we have.”

Summer in the Park

With a goal to make Summer in the Park the city’s signature event every year, Woodstock leaders lined up a slew of music and events for the inaugural fest.

Organizers sought to make the festival as affordable to families as possible, said Cindy Smiley, executive assistant to the city manager and mayor. The only cost throughout the weekend-long event are for food and drinks, she said. And vendors were required to have at least one $2.50 meal.

Organizers partnered with Steve Gavers of the Gavers Community Cancer Foundation to share an entertainment tent at Emricson Park, 1313 Kishwaukee Valley Road, Woodstock.

Summer in the Park will open July 18 with a free concert under the Big Tent used by Gavers for his annual Community Barndance. Featuring barbecue dinner, a live auction and music, the 15th annual fundraiser takes place at 5 p.m. July 19 to raise money for groups that help raise awareness of cancer through education and screenings. Tickets for the Barndance cost $50 a person. Attendees must be age 21 or older. For information or tickets on that event, visit www.gavers.org.

Summer in the Park runs July 18-20 at Emricson Park. Times for the festival’s various events and activities are subject to change. Information: 815-338-4301 or www.woodstockil.gov.

Following is a schedule of events for Summer in the Park:

July 18
• Summer Music in the Park, 7 to 11 p.m. Free concert featuring singer/songwriter Rick Monroe and the Wisconsin-based group Chasin’ Mason. Includes beer garden and food court featuring some of Woodstock’s finest restaurants.

July 19
• Summer at the Pool, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. A special day at Woodstock Water Works featuring games, activities, fun and food for all ages. Includes a reduced admission of $4 for the aquatic center. Most activities are free.

July 20
• Summer Fun in the Park, noon to 10 p.m. A day full of food, entertainment and fun for all ages. Includes food court and beer garden.

Entertainment under the Big Tent includes Stephen Schuch at 1:30 p.m.; Sean and Karen Slavin at 3 p.m. and Johnny Russler & the Beach Bum Band at 6 p.m. Entertainment on the Children’s Stage includes RC Juggles at 12:30, 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. Swingset will perform at 1 p.m.

A Children’s Area will be open from noon to 6 p.m. featuring carnival and bouncy games. Activities include mini-golf putting, trains and Legos at noon, hands-on science at 1 p.m., fingerpainting at 2 p.m., Read to the Dog at 3 p.m., puppet shows at 4 p.m. and storytime at 5 p.m.

A Bags Tournament (registration from noon to 2 p.m.) will take place at 2 p.m. Bingo is scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. Ahletic events include Home Run Derby Hole in One, Hockey Shots, Three-Point Shooting, Football Passing and Kicking contests.

A SuperHero/Heroine Costume Contest will take place at 8 p.m., followed at 8:30 p.m. with a showing of “The Avengers” movie in the Big Tent.

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