Thursday, July 7, 2011

On a summer evening

Last summer, I wrote about our town's Harmony in the Park concert series, held on Wednesday evenings under the bandshell in Lion's Park during June, July and August.

And this summer, they have resumed and are better than ever.  Attendance has soared and the series has gathered quite a following. Organizers are volunteers from the community, and the series is sponsored by the Park Commission who garners funding support from community businesses.

Last night's concert, attended by some 600 people, was absolutely delightful. A picture-book summer evening with a gentle breeze, it started with a local (and award-winning) group of folk dancers, The River City Cloggers. Clogging is the official state dance of Kentucky and the perfect segue into the feature performance by a Minnesota group, Monroe Crossing.

This amazing group is widely sought-after. Since they tour internationally, recruiting them to our little Swedish town year after year is a real coup.  This coming week, they are touring in Ontario, and from there, the east coast for an international folk festival. Their schedule is full, and here they were, just like they belonged, in our little corner of the world.

They entertained with selections from their newest CD album, songs written and recorded by Bluegrass pioneer, Bill Monroe (1911-1996), from Kentucky, "the father of Bluegrass."  Monroe Crossing named itself after the famous artist.

They also performed songs they have written themselves, like In the Fire, and many others. Their own version of Purple Rain would surely make Prince (also from Minnesota) proud. It was Bluegrass at its finest, for two solid hours.

There wasn't a foot in the crowd that wasn't tapping the grass, or hands that weren't keeping time on their knees, or just plain clapping aloud. A few brave souls got up to dance, but most of us were too mesmerized by the fiddling to actually get out of our chairs.

Warm and personable, Monroe Crossing visited with folks between sets and invited requests.

Our Harmony in the Park concert series is such a treat for our small town. Fifty miles from cultural events offered in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the series offers a variety of entertainment, from Rock 'n' Roll (yes, Elvis even appears), to orchestra, to Dixie, for families and folks of all ages.

And, in this shaky economy, there are no ticket sales, thanks to local merchants and businesses.

Oh yes, there are vendors offering popcorn, root beer floats and frozen novelties. Or you can bring your own treats from home.

Now, who can beat that for a perfect summer evening?