Monday, November 12, 2012

Rainbow Gardens at Waldameer Park, Erie, PA

Rainbow Gardens has held many events over the past eighty plus years, everything from concerts, dances, antique shows, ethnic festivals and craft shows. The venue is located in Millcreek Township, Erie County, PA, on the grounds of Waldameer Park and Water World. The park has entrances on West 8th Street and on Peninsula Drive.

Rainbow Gardens was built around 1925. The roof of Rainbow Gardens collapsed under the weight of a heavy snowstorm just before Christmas in 1950, causing the cancellation of four Christmas and New Year dances. (There was also a destructive fire at a different building at Waldameer Park, the Hofbrau German restaurant, in 1941.)

Some concerts at Rainbow Gardens include:
Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, May 23, 1927
Fletcher Henderson and his orchestra performed around 1928
Tal Henry and his North Carolinians, August 4, 1930
Duke Ellington & his Cotton Club Orchestra with Ivy Anderson, Sept. 10, 1931
Fats Waller and his orchestra performed for 6,000 people on April 25, 1936
Freddy Bergin with Mary Tudor, Oct. 17, 1936
Tommy Reynolds and his orchestra, May 22, 1942
Dick Stabile and his orchestra featuring Gracie Barrie, Nov. 26, 1942
Les Brown and his orchestra, December 5, 1942
Jack Teegarden performed around December, 1942
Richard Himber, April 24, 1943
Buddy Rich and his orchestra, July 6, 1946
Ina Ray Hutton and her orchestra, July 17, 1946
Carmen Cavallaro and his orchestra, July 9, 1947
Tex Beneke and his Glen Miller orchestra, Aug. 22, 1947
Gene Parlette and his orchestra, July 12, 1952
Les Brown and his Band of Renown, July 14, 1952
Stan Kenton, August 8, 1952
CJ Bri, February 13, 1970 Sweetheart Hop ad
Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, May 13, 1973
Maynard Ferguson, August 7, 1975
The Moonlighters
The Pulse and Friction, Nov. 13, 1981
Generic Beat 1985 (Battle of the Bands)
Generic Beat 1986 (show sponsored by WSEG-FM)
Shok Paris, Dirty Looks, Blackout, Rex and Thunder, Friday, March 7 (1987?)
Ronnie James Dio, April 25, 1997

This is going to be a long list. I will add more dates as I find them. Feel free to add a comment with the dates of concerts you have attended at Rainbow Gardens in Erie, PA.

Enjoy more historic facts and photos of Erie, PA at:


  1. In the 1940's, an annual post-Christmas dance, "The Peppermint Ball" was held at Rainbow Gardens. I remember it as a major event for high schoolers, and a very busy day for florists delivering coursages (one of my Christmas-time jobs).

    Also in the '40s, an afternoon radio program "Queen for a Day" mc'd by Johnny Olsen, was broadcast from there on one occasion. It was sponsored by the Home-Owned Foods organization, with which my father was involved. So I had a chance to hob-knob with Johnny Olsen when Dad chauffeured him around town. And, of course, I got his autograph! I was about 10 at the time.

  2. Vicki J (Turner) HarrisSeptember 5, 2013 at 9:58 PM

    The Erie East High School, Class of 1968, had the senior prom there that year! I will never forget how beautiful it was! What a magical night!

  3. Forrest Smith, California:
    I have a copy of sheet music for "I'll Never Smile Again" signed by Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers, which my aunt got when she saw Tommy Dorsey and Sinatra at the Rainbow Gardens in 1940.

    1. That is very cool! Do you also have the ticket stub? I bet that show was packed.

  4. Academy High had their 1968 prom there. I was a date and went to McDowell (class of '69).

  5. Trying to find a line up of who performed with a tour of recording stars in (I'm pretty sure) the summer of 1963. I was there, but about 10 years old. I know The Four Seasons performed, as well as Randy and the Rainbows (Oh, Denise) and I think Lesley Gore. There were at least 10 other acts. Anyone remember?

  6. I saw Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons at Rainbow Gardens around 1962. Had a blast! As a matter of fact, my friend and I ran into Nick Massi, who played electric base and bass vocals, buying a sweater at Trask's. That was cool too.