Dodge Street Bandits returns for Fourth of July encore

Cover band with local roots excited to play again at Lions Park venue on Monday

by Jim Boyle


The Dodge Street Bandits helped open the 2010 Independence Day celebration at Lions Park in Elk River last year, and this year the band with local ties has moved into the headline slot.

“We’re looking forward to playing under the lights,” said Will Wojcik. “Last year’s crowd was the biggest one we have played for yet. This year it will be even bigger.

Dodge Street Bandits band members include Will Wojcik (with guitar) and his wife, Tracy (Hargraves) Wojcik, who is on his right. On his left are Carl Sandusky, Ben Carruthers and Dillon O’Hara.

“It was incredible at night to watch the park fill in. There wasn’t an empty square in that park by the time of the fireworks.”

The Dodge Street Bandits, whose roots are literally traced back to Dodge Street in Elk River, will provide the prelude to the fireworks.

Wojcik’s wife, Tracy, will even sing the national anthem, something she did at Elk River athletic events when she was younger. When they’re not priming the crowd for the $15,000 fireworks show, Wojcik says they will play classic and modern rock covers.

The band is about as local as you can get, with four Elk River High School graduates in their mid- to late-20s.

The group will be without the services of its drummer, who will be on a mission trip in another state on the Fourth of July, but they have hired Terry Kearns, a truck driver by day and drummer by night who plays in local bands in Minneapolis. He’s also a drummer at Northgate Lutheran Church, where the Wojciks lead the music ministry.

The Dodge Street Bandits plays at The Friendly Buffalo in Big Lake and other nearby venues. It has also played in Menomonie, Wis. The band members also continue to do an increasing number of weddings.

The group played last year’s Fourth of July gig for free, but this year will draw a paycheck from the Independence Day Committee.

“They were awesome last year and we’re excited to have them back this year,” said Jill Griffiths, who helped develop the program lineup. “The crowd really enjoyed them last year.”

Will Wojcik and Dillon O’Hara, who were first in the group to play together as 12- and 13-year-olds, first became friends at school.

As their interest, passion and ability to play took root, they have added other musicians.

Tracy (Hargraves) Wojcik is a choir teacher by trade who provides vocals; Ben Carruthers, the usual drummer, is a youth pastor; and Carl Sandusky is a graphic designer who plays the bass.

Will and Dillon provide vocals, and play the guitar in the band. When they’re not playing music, they’re often working at Main Street Music in Elk River, one of the in-kind sponsors of the event. In addition to providing sound and lights for the show, Main Street Music will offer DJ services to kick this year’s event off at 4 p.m.

Will Wojcik will have his hand in that, too. Expect everything from Beach Boys tunes to some of the latest hip-hop favorites mixed in with classic and modern rock.

There will also be plenty of activity in the park for kids provided by Elk River Park and Rec, District 728 Community Education, the YMCA and the Elk River Boys & Girls Club.

Curbside Dining, the Elk River Lions, Sweet P’s Ice Cream and Dunn Bros Coffee will also be serving food and refreshments.

Local Boy and Girl Scouts, the Elk River High School Band Boosters, DECA and Young Life will be assisting in the park and selling pop and water out of wagons.

“It’s going to be a great day,” Wojcik said.


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