Concerts in the Parks

A love letter

Thursday, June 27, 2013

I miss the Columbia neighborhood.

Don’t get me wrong, where I live now is great. I can wake up every morning and gaze upon Bellingham Bay just out my window. It’s a lovely view, and I’ve grown rather attached to it.

However, for a few years I lived in a little house in the Columbia neighborhood, and I still think fondly back upon that locale, even if my life there left a thing or two to be desired some of the time. With its blend of stately historical homes and smaller, bungalow-style houses, the neighborhood is idyllic and, well, neighborly.

While the Columbia neighborhood is rife with charms, its crown jewel is no doubt Elizabeth Park. From its quaint gazebo and collection of catalogued and carefully curated trees to its tennis and basketball courts, the park is a fine place to play and an even better place to simply hang out.

Thanks to the nice folks at Bellingham Parks and Recreation, for several weeks each summer, Elizabeth Park is also an ideal setting in which to take in some live music. For years, Parks and Rec has spearheaded a summer concert series there, with free shows taking place every Thursday throughout the season. And unlike outdoor concerts to be found in other cities and towns, the Concerts in the Park series is free, family-friendly and open to all who might want to attend.

Typically, the Parks and Rec concert series isn’t limited to just Elizabeth Park. During summers past, concerts have taken place in other city parks, Saturdays in Boulevard Park proving to be a hugely popular draw. However, over the past couple of years, probably owing to budgetary constraints, the series has been scaled back somewhat. But money is not at the root of the cancellation of the Boulevard Park shows for the summer of 2013, rather it’s construction work taking place in the park that has supplanted the shows. Parks and Rec assures us the absence of music in Boulevard Park is a temporary one, and promises the return of concerts there in 2014.

Which brings us back to the Columbia neighborhood and Elizabeth Park. The concerts kick off Thurs., June 27 with the funk of Snug Harbor. This is a band that is no stranger to just about all of the stages in Bellingham—and some beyond—but they don’t generally get funky in close proximity to latticed gazebos. Until now. After that you can start your Independence Day celebrations with the jazz of Brian Forsloff (July 4), follow it up with the homegrown folk of the ever-entertaining Dana Lyons (July 11), before Amber Darling shows up to show off her brand of folk (July 18).

Klezmer music—always a popular draw in the park—is on tap July 25, courtesy of What the Chelm, while the Holmes Shea Band ushers in August with some R&B (Aug. 1). Vocal harmonies will be front and center when the Honeybees take their turn in the park Aug. 8, things take a turn for the semi-exotic with Bossa 31 come Aug. 15, and JP Falcon—one of this area’s busier musicians—makes time in his schedule for an Aug. 22 show. The closing act of this incarnation of the Concerts in the Park series will be David Weiss and his band Takes All Kings, who will rock the park Aug. 29.

Some things to remember when you’re planning your al fresco musical sojourn: The concerts kick off at 6pm (or thereabouts) and run for a couple of hours or so. They’re fully family-friendly, so don’t hesitate to bring the kids (it’s wise to indoctrinate them into Bellingham’s rich musical tradition while they’re still young). The last suggestion comes via Parks and Rec but can be duly echoed by me: unless you want to spend a frustrating amount of time searching out a parking spot in the already crowded streets of the Columbia neighborhood, it is wise to walk, bike or engage some other form of alternative transport should you decide to make your way to this particular musical endeavor. Other than that, the only mandate is to enjoy yourselves—and say hi to my old hood for me.

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