BY DANIEL MORGAN
Summers in Bloomington appeal to residents for a number of reasons: the tranquility of the largely vacant campus and less-crowded city; leisurely Saturday mornings at the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market; the beauty of nature along local trails. But what always draws crowds are the outdoor concerts presented by the City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department.
Now in its 23rd year, the Performing Arts Series has changed significantly since its inception — thanks in part to the city’s expansive music scene. The program this year features a variety of musical acts from Bloomington and the surrounding area performing more than 30 free shows at four venues from May 6 to September 23. Concerts at Peoples Park and on the Monroe County Courthouse lawn are reserved mostly for afternoon shows, while Bryan Park and Third Street Park host larger crowds in the evenings, up to 1,000 people in some cases.
Boogie-woogie pianist Craig Brenner is performing in three shows this summer, one as front man for Craig & the Crawdads; one with his wife, vocalist Lori Brenner; and one with the reunited The Ragin’ Texans, whom townies may remember as the reigning roots rock band of the 1980s. And although Brenner plays shows all over the U.S., he especially enjoys playing outdoors for a home crowd. “It’s a natural draw — it’s just as much fun to be playing outside as it is to attend one of those concerts,” he says.
Included among the performers taking part this summer are singer-songwriter Krista Detor playing what has become her traditional Bryan Park gig on August 31; Bloomington native and Nashville, Tennessee, blues guitarist Mark Robinson and his band, slated to play July 11 at Third Street Park; and Kid Kazooey & the Ballroom Roustabouts who will perform a family-oriented show at Peoples Park on June 24. The shows are funded, in part, by local businesses and organizations.
Greg Jacobs, community events coordinator at the Parks and Recreation Department, has organized the series for the past two years, and says the city is always striving to bring residents together to enjoy local cultural events. “It’s not just the raw numbers that I like to see — I like to see a diverse group of people coming in so that we know we’re doing our job of reaching the entire community.”