Claremont concert series officially kicks off summer

Claremont residents would argue that summer hasn’t officially begun until the masses emerge for the sweet sound of live music ricocheting off the Memorial Park band shell. One look at the lawns of Memorial Park Monday night gave weight to that argument.

The crowds packed into the park to welcome back Claremont’s annual Concert in the Park series, a free public event. The summer’s first heat wave was no deterrent as residents showed up in droves to enjoy rock-n-roll provided by The Ravelers, a returning local favorite. As the 90-degree weather cooled, concertgoers gathered among the park’s towering elms for an evening of dancing, food and good old-fashioned community fanfare.

“It’s what every small town should do to mark the start of summer,” said Delacy Ganley, enjoying a pre-concert picnic with her family. “It allows you to interact with your neighbors in a different context outside of work and your usual surroundings.”

The community spirit was evident in the shared picnic dinners and impromptu summer “reunions” for Claremont students joining up with their school friends during the summer recess.

“It’s the perfect place to meet up and just relax,” said Liz Lopez, a junior at Claremont High School. “We have been doing this ever since we were little.”

The city and local Kiwanis Club have partnered up to put on the concert series for as long as most can remember, creating a staple written into the minds, if not the history books of the Claremont community. The popularity is undeniable; the city boasts that each concert draws thousands of people. Memorial Park became a sea of picnic blankets and lawn chairs, brimming to the edges with eager music-lovers. The evening air was filled with the scent of buttered popcorn, hot dogs and hamburgers, of which the Kiwanis Club estimates selling about 300 each night.

“It really is the best,” said Melissa Vollaro, community and human services manager, of Claremont’s concert series. “It really speaks to the Claremont community and creates lasting memories.”

Though it is arguably one of Claremont’s largest recreational draws, it is also one of the easiest to organize, according to Ms. Vollaro, partially because of its popularity. Kiwanis President K.M. Williamson agrees, adding that bands call months in advance to procure a spot in the lineup.

“It’s because of the crowd,” said Ms. Williamson, admitting that she first joined the Kiwanis club because of the concert series. “It’s just the best, hands down.”

In addition to the tunes and the treats is the dancing.

“So many people get up and dance. You see 5-year- olds dancing to the Stones,” Ms. Williamson laughed. “It’s just great.”

Though a few fan favorites—like classic rock groups The Ravelers and The Answer—return year to year, many of the selections vary to keep the longstanding series fresh. The genres are as mixed as the expanse of picnic blankets, from soul and jazz to Beach Boys throwbacks. This year’s lineup includes Upstream (July 16), reggae; The Silverados (July 23), country; Hodads (July 30), surf; Kulayd (August 6), doo-wop/Motown; Neon Nation (August 13), ’80s; Stone Soul (August 20), ’60s/’70s; Night Blooming Jazzmen (August 27); Dixieland jazz; The Answer (September 3), classic rock.

Bands will play every Monday from 7:30 to 9 p.m. The public is invited to come down as early as 6 p.m. to enjoy dinner from the Kiwanis and claim a spot on the lawn.

Concertgoers are encouraged to bring blankets, picnics and low chairs. However, dogs, alcoholic beverages and smoking are not permitted. For more information, call the Claremont Human Services Department at 399-5490.

—Beth Hartnett


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