Concerts in the Park

Faribault’s Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off the 134th annual Concert in the Park season at 7 p.m. Thursday. In 2020, pictured, Brad Phenow of Parks and Rec said the event drew bigger crowds than usual due to its safe outdoor environment during the pandemic. (File photo courtesy of Faribault Parks and Recreation)

Eleven bands, two venues and three art classes amount to one good reason to stick around Faribault Thursday evenings this summer.

Concert in the Park returns 7 p.m. Thursday at Central Park, featuring a different local band every week in genres ranging from bluegrass and rock to a children’s DJ. As it has been for the past 134 years, Concert in the Park is free and open to the community.

“Get ready for another fun summer of live music in the park and make sure to come out and support some of these artists,” said Brad Phenow, Faribault Parks and Rec communications coordinator. “Some of them are making their living making art, so come show your support and enjoy the wonderful amenities that is the Faribault parks system.”

Grant funding typically allows Faribault Parks and Rec to hire 11 different bands throughout the summer, but with tighter restrictions for grant applicants during the pandemic year, the department relied heavily on financial support from businesses and individuals.

“We acknowledge all of our donors when introducing the band to make sure this continues on because clearly anything that lasts 134 years is worth keeping around,” Phenow said. “It gives bands a chance to show off their skills in front of an engaged audience. They comment on how much they appreciate playing in Faribault because of how much the crowd interacts with the band.”

While many of the performing groups are familiar to Concert in the Park audiences, three of the 10 bands are new to the lineup this year.

Back Up & Push, the first on the lineup performing this week, is a Minneapolis bluegrass band Phenow invited to perform based on the community’s interest in seeing more blues acts. Every year, Phenow explained, Parks and Rec conducts a survey to determine which genres the audience wants to hear. The survey also welcomes specific suggestions, which is how he selected the blues group Dee Miller Band.

Another suggestion that came from the survey was Eclipse, a music duo new to Faribault that previously performed at the opening of Mighty Fine! Coffee Company.

With Martha Brown on keyboard and Kathy Wickwire on drums, Eclipse sounds more like a three or four-person band with a “Doo Wop to Disco” lineup of hits from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

“We find, for us, that playing this music takes people back to happy times in their life,” Brown said. “ … We feel that people enjoy these kinds of shows because it gives them an ability to reflect on their own life journey through the music.”

Brown and Wickwire have played together for over 20 years, and Brown said they look forward to making themselves more known in Faribault by performing at Central Park.

All but the last performer of the 2021 Concert in the Park season will perform on the Central Park band stand. Jivin’ Ivan and the Kings of Swing instead performs at 7 p.m. at the River Bend Nature Center Aug. 19.

Phenow said Parks and Rec began partnering with River Bend a few years back during an anniversary year of the nature center, and “the response was incredible.” Golf carts from the facility and other businesses shuttled guests who parked further away, and the crowd enjoyed the concert against the backdrop of woods and prairies. Appropriately, Phenow said Jivin’ Ivan himself crafted wood signage at RBNC, and band member Mike Hildebrandt served on a board that helped form the nature center.

As another partnership, local artist Kate Langlais will teach visual art classes to children at 6 p.m., an hour before the concerts June 10 and 24 and July 9 at Central Park. Participants will craft artwork that fits with the performance genre of the evening. Classes are free, but pre-registration is required at so the instructor knows how much material to bring.

“The thought is that the parents would come at 6 for that and stick around for the concert at 7,” Phenow said. “We want to make sure the focus of the concert is to have a family friendly event, and we continue to see that since art classes started.”

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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