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Benefits of 'Uptown Friday Nights'

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- Uptown Friday Nights is already off to a rocking start in Cedar Rapids.

The tradition, now in its 26th year, recently moved from Greene Square park to the brand new McGrath Amphitheatre. The Jaycees, who organized the event, estimate that nearly 2,000 people we're jamming out last Friday. That doubles their largest crowds from last year.

The money they raise from the event goes to local organizations, so when you consider that they support nearly 60 of them, you can see why they are excited for what the new venue will bring.

For resident Heather Hull, her experience with Uptown Friday Night at the Amphitheatre started as a cursory glance.

"We were just going to drop by for uptown, see how it was different from Greene Square Park," she says

4 hours later she was hooked.

"I have tickets for a show on July 10th already."

There were many like her last weekend at the McGrath Amphitheater, and the buzz is growing.

But what makes it special? Could it be the energy?

"There were tons of people, everyone was having a blast," Hull says.

Or is it something else?

"We don't have a train going through the middle of the concert anymore," says David Haley, the Uptown Friday Night Director. "We had that issue pretty much on a weekly basis."

However you look at it, they all say there is potential for the venue to steal the show here in Cedar Rapids. However, that's only part of the story.

The more they get nights like this past Friday night, the more butts they get firmly planted in these seats, the more the entire community benefits. That's because the money raised by the Jaycees goes to local and national nonprofits and organizations - $300,000 since the event began in 1988.

Their charity causes range from domestic violence support groups, to a new irrigation system for Greene Square Park, to international issues, like providing nets to combat mosquitoes and malaria in Africa.

With a bigger venue, our ears benefit - and so does the city in more ways than one.

"It's gorgeous," Hull says. "It's going to be a great summer."

For more info on 'Uptown Friday Nights', visit
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