September 2022 Gazette Front Page: The Unsung Heroes of Bash on the Bay

The Unsung Heroes of Bash on the Bay

By Peter Huston

The crowds have left, the airport is operational, and Bash on the Bay 5 is in the books. Two beautiful days of 80 degree sunshine brought big crowds to the South Bass Island’s country music festival to hear great performances by Brad Paisley and the Zac Brown Band. It takes a huge effort to make this all happen on an island. Over the two days of Bash on the Bay I walked around talking to islanders and business owners asking them “who is the hardest working least thanked person in your crew.” I got some great answers and this story is a tribute to them.

The heavy lifting behind the scenes for Bash on the Bay is a Niese family effort. Tim and Josh Niese along with Annette Luecke make it happen, but when I asked the staff at the Grand Islander Hotel, they all said without missing a beat its 13-year assistant to Tim, Amanda “Rudie” Woolsey and her right-hand assistant Kaitlin Niese. Together they handle the financial details, run to put out fires, and keep the whole operation operating smoothly.

None of this could happen without the crew at Miller Boat Line. When asked, President and operations chief Billy Market immediately pointed to Captain David Dress and his crew including Jake Market. Captain Dress noted that they all put in several days of 11-hour shifts to move people and equipment seamlessly from the mainland to the island and back. By noon on Friday, between the Nieses’ event staff and the MBL team it was hard to tell if a concert had even taken place.

Bash on the Bay could never happen without top concern for public safety. Nearly three dozen Deputy Sheriffs from around Ohio were present this year thanks to the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Steve Levorchick. And for the health and safety onsite for the concert’s fans it was all in the hands of two dozen Put-in-Bay EMS, Put-in-Bay Fire and Mercy Health workers and a number of mainland EMT and fire personnel. PIB Fire’s Doug Wilhelm and literally every EMT and safety person I asked said the same thing. It is PIB EMS manager Bernice Walton who deserves our thanks for all she does. Hats off to Bernice. I was glad that for the most part that the EMS teams were all quite bored both days! And many thanks go to the staff like Pam Grueter at Island Transportation for keeping concert goers moving in and out of the concert site safely too.

There are so many moving parts in an event like this, such as stage, sound, lights, AV, food and beverage folks and more. This year once again most of the beverage tents were staffed by volunteer groups that smiled and served folks for the tips they collected that will benefit their cause. This year Sandusky FOP, Huron Tigers and Norwalk St. Paul’s football supporters were onsite and special shout out to Port Clinton’s CASA run by Connie Roe. CASA was collecting for their GrandParent support project inspired by some South Bass Island grandparents that made a difference. Finally, kudos to islander Lisa Benjamin and her team from the Heritage Tri-motor project as she continues to complete her dad’s dream of rebuilding the island’s “Tin Goose”.

And here’s to Larry Fletcher, Shores and Islands Ohio, Wendy Chambers and Jordan Jenkins from Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce, and Rosann Keiser from the PIB Port Authority that assist all the visitors and our island friends and businesses that make Bash on the Bay a top notch destination concert year after year. Thanks to these hard workers and more that stay in the shadows doing the important work to help us all here on South Bass succeed. is proud to present this Put-in-Bay Gazette article from the September 2022 issue.

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