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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Music in the park returns

Music in the Park will bring a variety of local and outside musical groups to Grinnell’s Central Park. Contributed photo.

After roaming from location to location the last few years, Grinnell’s annual summer music celebration, Music in the Park, is returning to Central Park. 

Music in the Park has been a Grinnell tradition since 2009, when the city started the series of events as a compliment to each Thursday’s Farmer’s Market, providing a space for local artists to perform and local audiences to listen to music in the sun.

When construction began in Central Park two years ago, the event was forced to relocate to other Grinnell landmarks, like Ahrens Park, the Grinnell College campus and the steps of the Grinnell Area Arts Council, but it never was quite the same. This year will be a homecoming of sorts, with performers and audience members able to enjoy the new and improved facilities in Central Park.

Twelve musical groups will be featured this summer, ranging from local favorites like Mojo Machine, which has been performing in and around Grinnell since the ’90s, to nationally recognized groups like Barefoot Becky and the Ivanhoe Dutchmen, a polka group led by Becky Livermore who performs, fittingly, without shoes.

Local groups The Too Many Strings Band, Calle Sur, Prairie Jewel Dixieland Band and Grinnell’s own award-winning bagpipe and drum ensemble Turlach Ur will also perform. Other outside groups include the Society of Broken Souls, The Pines, Courtney Krause, Christopher the Conquered and Grinnell alumna Jackie Myers. 

The Grinnell Community Band, founded in 1856 and a staple of many celebrations in Grinnell, will again headline four of the planned performances.

The Grinnell Area Arts Council organizes the series, and Erik Jarvis ’12, who organizes events and handles facilities upkeep at the Arts Council, was in charge of organizing Music in the Park again this year. 

Jarvis begins planning the event in early January. He uses his experience as a musician in Iowa and as a Grinnell resident to reach out to groups who may be interested in performing, and who Grinnellians would like to hear. He also arranges funding with Music in the Park’s many sponsors, including the Hotel and Motel Tax Committee, Hotel Grinnell, Sarah Joan Baker, Grinnell College, Brent and Dawn Jaeger, Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company, Ramsey Weeks, Peace Tree Brewing and Lonnski’s Pub and Deli.

According to Jarvis, losing Central Park as a performance space posed several issues. Without Central Park, there was no centralized location for performances to be held. Locations like Ahrens Park are too far removed and lack the proper facilities. In addition, Music in the Park was disassociated from the Farmer’s Market, the weekly event with which it was originally paired. Jarvis predicts that this year more people will consistently attend the performances, and that mingling between the musical crowd and the Farmer’s Market crowd will become more pronounced.

In addition to the change of venue, Music in the Park will have a shorter season this year. That made scheduling more difficult for Jarvis, but the condensed schedule may also encourage more people to come out when they have the chance.

Jarvis himself is especially excited for The Pines, a band of three being brought in by Hotel Grinnell. The Pines have played in Grinnell before, quickly selling out, and Jarvis hopes a free event like Music in the Park with all the space the outdoors can provide will give many more the chance to see this popular band.

The first Music in the Park event will take place on May 31, after Grinnell classes have ended for the semester, and the last will take place in July, well before most students return for the fall semester. However, Jarvis encourages any students taking part in MAPs, or those in Grinnell for other reasons, to check it out.

In addition, Jarvis hopes he can book more student performers for Grinnell Area Arts Council events during the summer or during the school year, and he encourages any students who may be interested to reach out.

No matter who is playing, performances start at 5:30 or 7 p.m., and audience members will gather around the park, perhaps, according to Jarvis, perusing the produce available at the Farmer’s Market, and settling in for a night of music and community.

“People bring picnics and lawn chairs and blankets, and depending on the band people will dance. … There’s been food in the past. So it’s just really nice summer outdoor music,” Jarvis said.

Music in the Park kicks off with Jackie Myers on May 31, with new artists almost every Thursday until July 26, all performing in Grinnell’s Central Park.

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