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Weekend events light up amphitheater

LaGRANGE — As the Alcotts played on the Sweetland Amphitheatre stage on Friday night, the adirondack chairs on the lawn slowly filled with expectant locals munching on Kona Ice, enjoying the music and the sunset while waiting on the showing of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” sponsored by LaGrange College.

The Alcotts are a local indie/alternative band who play a combination of original songs and covers.

“A big inspiration of ours is the ’90s, as you can probably tell,” said singer Steffi Ledbetter with a laugh between songs.

Ledbetter sings with Corbin Hoats and their band at a variety of events and venues, and are slated to perform at the Battle of the Bands next weekend at Sweetland Amphitheatre.

Following the band’s performance, there was a Star Wars costume contest. Vivienne Van Schorr won with her Queen Amidala costume.

Finally, when the sun had fully set, the movie started.

“It’s a good place to bring youth groups because it’s pretty self-contained,” said Kim Davis, who attended the movie with the youth group from Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church. “It’s very family oriented. It’s good for LaGrange.”

Organizers estimated that there were more than 200 people at the event.

On Saturday night, MJ Live, a Michael Jackson tribute group, played at the Sweetland Amphitheatre for an ecstatic crowd.

The opening act was The Stooges Brass Band from New Orleans. The group has been around since 1996, though the band members have changed over the years. The current group has been together for about five years.

“This generation is the best generation,” said Walter Ramsey, the band’s trombonist, referring to the current group.

The band got the crowd warmed up and excited about the show. After a few songs, people began dancing in the stands and in the grass surrounding the amphitheater.

“We chose them because they are as fun to listen to as they are to watch,” said Becca Eiland, director of Sweetland Amphitheatre.

After a brief pause to reset the stage, MJ Live took the stage to wild cheers. MJ Live regularly performs in Las Vegas and across the country, and their energy was contagious.

Concertgoer Misti Cook said “Beat It” was her favorite song by Jackson.

“We used to dance to it all the time,” she said. “We love all his songs.”

The band performed a variety of songs from The Jackson 5’s “ABC” to the crowd favorite “Thriller.” The iconic costumes and dance moves only added to the crowd’s excitement.

“We were going to go to Las Vegas for this, then we found out that we were going to have it here,” said Alice Albritton, who attended with Steve and Lisa Bell. The Bells drove down from Charlotte, North Carolina, to see the performance.

The performers made a point to pull the audience into the show, and even invited children from the audience onto the stage to show off their best Michael Jackson dance moves.

“If it’s Michael Jackson, I’m all about him,” said attendee Kathy Martin. “I’ve been a fan since I was 3 years old.”

The concert series will continue with the UnBreakable performance, slated for Aug. 27.

Children dressed like Star Wars characters compete in a costume contest during Friday’s Sunsets at Sweetland event featuring a screening of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens.’ Contestants are, from left, winner Vivienne Van Schorr as Queen Amidala; Bo Beall as an Auburn University-style Obi Wan Kenobi; and Joseph Threadgill as Darth Vader.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/08/web1_web0808Sweetland02-5.jpgChildren dressed like Star Wars characters compete in a costume contest during Friday’s Sunsets at Sweetland event featuring a screening of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens.’ Contestants are, from left, winner Vivienne Van Schorr as Queen Amidala; Bo Beall as an Auburn University-style Obi Wan Kenobi; and Joseph Threadgill as Darth Vader. Alicia B. Hill | Special to the Daily News

MJ Live, a Michael Jackson tribute band, performs Saturday night at Sweetland Amphitheatre.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/08/web1_web0808Sweetland03-5.jpgMJ Live, a Michael Jackson tribute band, performs Saturday night at Sweetland Amphitheatre. Alicia B. Hill | Special to the Daily News

Steffi Ledbetter of group The Alcotts performs.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/08/web1_web0808Sweetland04-5.jpgSteffi Ledbetter of group The Alcotts performs. Alicia B. Hill | Special to the Daily News

Attendees at Sweetland Amphitheatre on Friday for the Sunsets at Sweetland series prepare for a showing of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens.’
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/08/web1_web0808Sweetland05-5.jpgAttendees at Sweetland Amphitheatre on Friday for the Sunsets at Sweetland series prepare for a showing of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens.’ Alicia B. Hill | Special to the Daily News

The Stooges Brass Band performs Saturday at Sweetland Amphitheatre.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/08/web1_web0808Sweetland06-5.jpgThe Stooges Brass Band performs Saturday at Sweetland Amphitheatre. Alicia B. Hill | Special to the Daily News

Alice Albritton, left, and Lisa Bell, dressed like Michael Jackson, prepare for the MJ Live concert on Saturday at Sweetland Amphitheatre.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/08/web1_web0808Sweetland01-5.jpgAlice Albritton, left, and Lisa Bell, dressed like Michael Jackson, prepare for the MJ Live concert on Saturday at Sweetland Amphitheatre. Alicia B. Hill | Special to the Daily News
Attendees show out for MJ Live, ‘Force Awakens’

By Alicia B. Hill

Daily News correspondence