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Let’s revive Arts in the Park

Mark Meseke

By The Mercury

What a fantastic evening Saturday was in City Park. Kansas State’s Union Program Council partnered with Fort Riley’s Morale Welfare and Recreation and Manhattan’s Parks and Recreation to produce a phenomenal night of music at The Little Apple Music Festival. Fantastic music, beautiful wea-ther, food and lots of kids’ activities. What a treasure we have in Manhattan.

Or what a treasure we used to have. The nearly 3,000 spectators there were reminiscent of the Arts in the Park glory days. Five thousand or more would fill the grounds to hear Chubby Checker, The Drifters, Eric Burton and the Animals, B. J. Thomas, The Diamonds, Shari Lewis, Shelly Wright, a surprise appearance by now superstar Blake Shelton and performers from Branson. 

Yeah, you can say the program is dying because the City Com-mission cut its budget. And acts cost more these days. But check out Junction City’s Sundown Salute. Organizers bring in a dozen “tribute” bands — bands from St. Louis, Chicago and Kansas City that perform the music of and often sound and dress like well-known bands. Plus there’s a headliner or two. Free!

How? Huge banners hang from either side of the stage and read, “Briggs Auto.” The J.C. Cham-ber of Commerce told me Briggs contributed $25,000 for that sponsorship. DEL Motors of Junction City also contributed $25,000. But a lone banner hangs from the rafters of the Arts In the Park stage signifying the Man-hattan Realtors chipped in $1,500. At least we have the Realtors on board.  That’s a start.

If we are going to revive Arts in the Park, then the City/Parks and Recreation/Arts In The Park need to:

• Recruit major sponsors (GTM, Briggs, Dick Edwards, Little Apple Toyota Honda, Mercy Regional Health Center, CivicPlus, etc.) to help fund a full 20-concert schedule (each Friday and Saturday) from the beginning of June to mid August.

• Market the series on a regional basis. Send photos and information on each act to all regional media. Some paid advertising will be a necessity.

• Get the word out on social media. Develop a user-friendly website that will feature photos, video clips and biography of each act. Name the website something simple like instead of starting with the city’s website and following multiple prompts.

• Hang banners across the road near West Loop and Aggie-ville. Develop similar banners for City Park, particularly near the pavilion.

• Place “table tents” with the season schedule in any rest-aurant or bar that will accept them. Area-wide.

• Place posters in any store window that a will accept them.

• Always have an Arts in the Park rep on stage to introduce, or help intro-duce, every act and to tell the audience what shows are coming up. Distribute schedules of future acts at all shows.

At Arts in the Park performances, I’ve visited with people who have come to the shows from numerous cities around Manhattan. They often eat in our restaurants, shop at the mall or Wal-Mart and could have a significant economic impact if we can build the crowds back up. I’ve heard military family members rave about what a treasure we have. It’s sad to tell them it’s dying.

I want my summer concert season back. Where’s Blake Shelton when you need him?

Mark Meseke lives at 1514 College Ave.

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