Summer concerts start Friday

Posted: Thursday, June 07, 2001

On Friday night, Juneau residents will gather in Marine Park, just as they've done for the past 15 years.

Despite occasional rain, fiscal tightening and some sponsorship juggling, the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council's Concerts in the Park summer series is going strong.

"It's really kind of wonderful in that it just kind of happens," said Natalee Rothaus, former executive director of the arts council. "It's a very fun opportunity for people to visit and sit outside and listen to music and be entertained. It's a safe place for their kids to just run around and have fun."

In 1986, then-Mayor Fran Ulmer, now lieutenant governor, formed a citizen's committee with the goal of "helping Juneau become a better capital city and more inviting in a lot of different ways," said Eve Reckley, who was the city's information officer at the time.

The Friday night concerts grew from that idea. Since their earliest days, they have featured three community performers, the occasional guest artist and a local MC.

"We just wanted to get the best performers out there that we could possibly do and provide an open free concert series in the park," said J. Althea, one of the founders of the series.

"There's just a completely different feel to an outside venue rather than an indoor venue," Rothaus added.

Phyllis Scott, who has performed at Concerts in the Park for six years with the Daughters of the New Moon Middle Eastern dance troupe, agreed.

"You're surrounded by the audience on all sides," she said. "You're not just dancing into one side - you have to be aware of the audience all around.

"And sometimes," she added with a laugh. "It's cold and you have to dress with more layers."

Whenever Juneau's unreliable weather strikes, the concerts move to the Juneau Assembly Chambers across the street from Marine Park.

"That's a real cozy venue," Davis said. "It works fine. Some people actually like it better."

The concerts have been supported by Holland America Line, Westours Inc. since 1991. Last year, the cruise line temporarily withdrew its support, but the Alaskan Brewery Company quickly moved in to pick up the slack, Davis said.

"(They) just jumped right in, which was really wonderful," she added. "But they can't sustain that kind of support, so we appealed to Holland America again."

Aid was restored, albeit in a slightly limited capacity. The series also receives support from the city, with funds going to pay for sound and advertising costs. Donations collected at the concerts themselves are earmarked for the arts council's scholarship fund, which donated $7,000 to local students this year.

"We're not taking anything," Davis said. "And it all goes for such a good cause."

Groups scheduled to perform this summer include: dance group Salsa Borealis; dancers from the Juneau Dance Unlimited fine arts camp; Nicole Edwards, a guitarist from Whitehorse; and the Victorian Carolers.

This Friday, the Celebration Singers, a group from Athens, Ga., are featured. The program also includes the Juneau Tlingit Dancers, Jeff Brown, and the Buckley Women, with Claire Richardson as MC. The show begins at 7 p.m. in Marine Park.

"It'll be a good show," Davis said. "It's a chance to be with your family and friends and relax and stroll the waterfront and just enjoy an hour down there."

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