Arts in the Park comeback is something to behold

By Letters to the Editor

To the Editor: 

Arts in the Park is back!!

After years of the same old bands and an overabundance of singers, songwriters and acoustic guitar players,  the 2014 Arts in the Park performances have been pleasantly refreshing.

Rarely has Arts in the Park featured “tribute” bands. This year saw two, last Friday night’s 7 Bridges, an outstanding Eagles tribute band, and the July 25 performance featuring Odyssey Road, an exceptional Journey tribute band. The “Eagles” band wowed one of the largest Arts in The Park crowds in years. As the show ended, the enthusiastic crowd rose to its feet and demanded an encore.

Same for Odyssey Road. You could shut your eyes and just imagine you were listening to, well, Journey. In past years, crowds left as the shows neared the end. But for the tribute bands, the crowds stayed until the last note.

Not to be outdone, inter-national folk act The Wailin’ Jennys may have drawn the largest Arts in the Park crowd in years. The Jennys are a Man-hattan favorite featuring members who create some of the most exciting music on the folk roots scene.

Perhaps the surprise of the  season was Grammy-nominated Texan country blues singer Randy McAllister. His voice at times suggested a bluesy Wilson Pickett. 

The highlight of the Little Apple Music Festival had to be Steelwheels, an entertaining soulful mountain music band based in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.  

Arts in the Park has worked its way back to credibility with a variety of music — rock, country, blues, jazz, Americana. And organizers got the word out — posters in store windows, table tents at Manhattan Town Center, radio spots on local stations, and Parks and Rec Facebook videos. As a result, crowds that in pre-vious years numbered in the low to mid hundreds now approach 1,000 or better. 

While the city’s Parks and Recreation Department has again found the formula for success, there is still a need for major sponsors. City commis-sioners in recent years saw the tiny crowds and made deep cuts in the budget. It’s time to show commissioners recent attend-ance figures and the value of reinstating funding. The concert series could even have a sizable economic impact on Manhattan. While here, visitors often shop at Wal-Mart or the mall, eat at one of our restaurants and gas up their vehicles or go for a swim.

A Kansas City blues band, Trampled Under Foot, which is an International Blues Chal-lenge Winner, takes the stage at 8 p.m.  Friday in the final show of the season.

If you haven’t been to an Arts in the Park performance yet this year ,come see what you’ve been missing.

Mark Meseke
1514 College Ave.

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