Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Thursday in the park by Little Chicago June 27, 2020

A portion of the crowd enjoying Little Chicago’s June 25 concert at Central Park in Faribault.

 

ANY OTHER SUMMER, and I wouldn’t consider a concert in the park anything but typical for a Thursday evening in Faribault. The weekly warm weather concerts have been part of my community’s history now for 134 years. But these are the days of a global pandemic. Yet, not even COVID-19 can stop this music tradition.

 

Many couples brought their lawn chairs and found a social-distancing spot in the park.

 

Central Park sits in Faribault’s downtown area, along Second Avenue across from the historic Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour.

 

Some folks opted to sit on park benches near the stage.

 

Thursday evening I attended my first 2020 summer concert organized by the Faribault Parks and Recreation Department and sponsored by area businesses. Things looked a bit different. The vast crowd was spread throughout the block-square Central Park, mostly adhering to CDC social-distancing guidelines. Some wore masks, especially when coming to and leaving the park.

 

Loved the 60s and 70s hits performed by Little Chicago.

 

Randy and I settled at the back of the gathering to enjoy the music of Little Chicago, a New Prague-based cover band for hits from the 60s and 70s. Our music. Songs by The Grassroots, Chicago, the Turtles, Neil Diamond… Familiar hits that took me back to my teen years, especially songs like “Color My World” and “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago, one of my all-time favorite bands.

 

Thumbing through a book while enjoying the concert…

 

As I listened, swung my foot and occasionally sang along to songs like “Happy Together” and “Sweet Caroline,” (who can resist?), I watched. I am an observer. Taking in the setting and the people and the experience.

 

All ages attended the concert, with more young families than I’ve seen in past years.

 

What a beautiful evening for a concert with pleasant temps and a stir of a breeze as the day edged toward sunset.

 

Most people arrived via vehicle. But some also walked and biked.

 

I noticed a difference in this year’s crowd with more young families in attendance. Typically, these concerts draw older folks like me. But I watched kids arrive—in red wagons, on trikes, in strollers—with parents and grandparents. And then dance, play, toss balls. Simply enjoying the exceptionally beautiful summer evening outdoors. It reminded me of all the years we brought our own three children here to do the same.

 

Visiting…

 

I saw quite a few dogs, all under control and well-behaved.

 

Little Chicago’s homemade sign banners the base of the bandshell where folks enjoy the music.

 

I watched as people swayed their hands, as a couple danced, as dog owners circled their dogs around the park. It all looked so normal. If not for the lawn chairs spaced far apart, the face masks, the reminder in the back of my brain, I would have considered this just any other Thursday summer evening in Central Park. For a few hours, it felt that way, as if COVID-19 had exited and only the music of summer played.

 

One final look at the crowd-pleasing band, Little Chicago.

 

FYI: The Lakerlanders Barbershop Chorus performs at the next free concert set for 7 pm Thursday, July 2, in Faribault’s Central Park.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

From Faribault: Connecting community through music July 18, 2019

The 8th Street Band performs in the Central Park bandshell during Faribault Heritage Days. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo June 2019.

 

MY INABILITY TO READ a single musical note doesn’t diminish my appreciation for music. Rather I value all those vocalists and instrumentalists who enhance my life with the music they create.

 

A crowd gathers to hear The 8th Street Band. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo June 2019.

 

Here in Faribault, gifted musicians bring music to Central Park on Thursday summer evenings beginning at 7 p.m. as part of the free Concerts in the Park series. This has been ongoing now for 132 years. That’s a lot of music in a long string of concerts.

Tonight’s performance features the horn band Little Chicago with hits from the 60s and 70s. Songs from bands like Chicago, The Grass Roots and Blood, Sweat & Tears. My kind of music from my era.

 

Visiting, connecting during a performance by The 8th Street Band. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo June 2019.

 

I love the informality of these concerts where folks tote lawn chairs to the park and then settle in to listen to the music and to chat with other concert-goers. There’s a strong sense of community, a connectedness that comes from the universal language of music bringing people together.

 

A stuffed animal rests on a park bench (next to grandpa) during the Faribault Heritage Days celebration band concert. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo June 2019.

 

Together. We need more of that in today’s chaotic world where too many individuals fail to think before they speak or post on social media. A world where differences split peoples and anger spews and too many harsh words erupt.

 

The sun sets behind the bandshell as barbershoppers sing tunes ranging from “Sweet Caroline” to “God Bless America.” Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

We need the language of music to envelope us, to take us away for an evening, to unite us in the commonality of something beautiful and lovely and freeing. We need the distraction of voices and of instruments as the sun shifts around the bandshell and slants across the grass, closing the day with song.

FYI: The July 18 concert also includes Free Art in the Park from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Local artist Kate Langlais will teach the basics of painting. Pre-register with the Faribault Parks & Recreation Department.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling