The Parks Are Alive

With the sound of music

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Although I’m not technically (gasp!) a local, I’ve lived in Bellingham nearly half my life at this point. Obviously, I live here because I love it here, but from time to time even an enthusiastic civic booster such as myself suffers from alert fatigue when it comes to really seeing this area’s many charms.

Usually when that happens, I hit the road, take a few days away and return refreshed and renewed. However, when I can’t do that, I try to view Bellingham as though I’m a first-time visitor here. I gaze up at the facades of the many lovely buildings of the downtown core. I marvel at the impossible number of coffeehouses, tattoo parlors and hair salons this town somehow supports. I take in all the quirky public art I typically ignore. I walk neighborhoods, picking out the houses I’d like to live in if I were free to choose such a thing.

However, if I want to take a trip straight into the heart of what makes this place an idyllic wonderland, I head to Elizabeth Park on a Thursday evening during the summer.

Tucked away in the Columbia neighborhood, Elizabeth Park is one of this city’s many gems no matter the time of year, but for the 10 Thursdays every summer, the appeal of the park is downright magnetic. These are the days of Bellingham Parks and Recreation’s Elizabeth Park Concert Series, when musicians of all stripes and sounds play free concerts in the park for anyone who happens to wander by, perhaps trying to rekindle a love affair with Bellingham.

Much like last year, the music for the 2014 Elizabeth Park Concert Series was booked by the ever-capable Marla Bronstein, who waded through some 80 band applications to arrive at the final roster of talent. The bands chosen represent a wide and diverse range of local music while still keeping in mind the series takes place in a mostly staid residential neighborhood. The Legendary Chucklenuts will kick things off June 26, and in the weeks that follow, you’ll encounter the folk rock of Tim McHugh and the Lost Poets (reunited on July 3 and it feels so good), the bluegrass of the Prozac Mountain Boys (July 17), the feel-good, booty-shaking sounds of the Yogoman Burning Band (July 24), the always-engaging Dana Lyons (Aug. 7) before the concert series closes out Aug. 28 with the Penny Stinkers.

Along with being excited about the lineup, Bronstein also wants to remind bands and attendees that whatever act generates the most in donation dollars is guaranteed a spot in next year’s lineup. Rest assured, the concerts are still free, but your donations help to keep the series robust. As always, the concerts begin at 6pm, and parking can be tricky, so it’s best to rely on your feet or your two-wheeled conveyance to get yourself there.

Per usual, Parks and Rec. has more going on that just the Elizabeth Park series. Also part of the outdoor action is Downtown Sounds (expect to hear more about that in a couple of weeks) and the Boulevard Park Evening Concert Series.

As idyllic as Elizabeth Park might be, if you’re looking for Bellingham’s most spectacular concert venue, you’ll have to make your way closer to the Southside and Boulevard Park. Beginning July 19, bands will take over the stage there from 7pm-9pm during four summer Saturdays. Opening with the afro-funk of the Polyrhythmics (July 19), the series then delves into ska (Skamania, July 26) before detouring into some of Bellingham’s best bluegrass (Br’er Rabbit, Aug. 2) and ending up in rhumba and salsa country (Cambalache, Aug. 9).

Maybe you’re not like me, and your relationship with Bellingham never suffers from being occasionally taken for granted. Or perhaps you occasionally find yourself growing increasing immune to this city’s allure. Either way, the cure for what does or does not ail you can probably be found by pointing yourself in the direction of a prime piece of city real estate and listening for the sound of music. The parks are alive with it, after all.

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