ST. CLOUD – After canceling last year's summer concert series due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Summertime by George! is back this year with an 11-week schedule beginning June 23.

The Rotary Club of St. Cloud, which organizes the free weekly concert series at the pavilion by Lake George, announced Thursday the opening date for this summer's series will feature Justin Ploof & the Throwbacks.

"The work really begins right now," said Troy Fritz, past president and entertainment chairman of the Rotary.

Gov. Tim Walz last week eliminated capacity limits and distancing requirements for outdoor entertainment events as of May 7.

The state's indoor mask mandate will end Friday.

While some guidelines are still up in the air, patrons can expect food vendors, a beer garden and activities for kids — all with additional hand-sanitizing and hand-washing stations at the open-air venue.

"Those were some of the bigger factors we had to try to figure out how to manage in an event that is fairly open," Fritz said.

"We don't have an entrance gate or an exit gate; we're a free concert series."

The Rotary Club of St. Cloud, a volunteer service organization made up of business, nonprofit and community leaders, launched Summertime by George! in 2011 as a way to bring the community together.

Each week during the series, people are welcome to bring a blanket or lawn chair and listen to a four-hour concert for free.

The series features Minnesota bands and typically draws more than 10,000 people each week.

Last year, the club planned to celebrate its 10th season in a big way.

"As we were going into the pandemic, the writing was on the wall that it was going to be hard to [plan]. We didn't have enough information coming fast enough.

"Everybody got to the conclusion that until we knew more, we had to cancel to be safe," Fritz said.

But club members have been planning this year's series for months, despite not knowing what restrictions might still be in place this summer.

"We went into the conversation saying we will do everything we can to make it happen until somebody tells us that we can't because we know how important it is for the community and for the entertainers to get back in action," Fritz said.

The concert series, which wraps up on Sept. 1, will feature bands already booked for last year's canceled series.

"It really is an all-star cast," Fritz said.

"These are some of the best bands we've had over the 10 years and we wanted to bring them together for our 10th anniversary season."

The full lineup will be announced May 25 at

Fritz said organizers are asking the public to help the club by being responsible and getting vaccinated.

"We're just excited to get the community back together for this great event," he said. "I hope our biggest concern down the road is weather and not health and safety."

Jenny Berg • 612-673-7299

Twitter: @bergjenny