DOWNTOWN BEFORE DARK: First summer concert is a resounding success
On the first night of summer, the rain gods held off dark clouds, making way for blue sky.
Under a blue tarp on a homemade stage, musicians were setting up while the Northern Knights were parking their classic cars on Second Street in downtown Park Rapids.
And when Circle of Heat lit into their first blues number, rain-weary residents trudged downtown with their foldable lawn chairs to enjoy the first of summer music series called 2nd Street Stage.
It was a rousing success for the Downtown Business Association. Crowds steadily poured downtown to hear an energetic bunch of kids from Minneapolis play a mix of blues, funk, jazz and classic rock - splendidly.
Downtown business owner Ellis Jones was pleased at the turnout. He'd worried early on in the evening that attendance might be down.
But families, couples, strollers and bicycling teens kept coming. Some said they heard the music and were drawn to it.
Downtown merchants stayed open later. You could see customers strolling through the shops while listening to the two-hour concert.
A small beer garden and snacks were available. Children lined up under the face-painting tent.
City councilman Paul Utke took the microphone to briefly thank the attendees and remind them of the years of sacrifice it took to renovate the downtown area.
People settled comfortably into the new downtown benches, or perched in chairs on the street, content to be downtown on a beautiful evening. The downtown flowers and greens were lush from recent heavy rains. Visitors took pictures as they ambled up and down Main Avenue.
And, as if it was pre-ordained, Mother Nature's percussion ensemble took over the sound effects as soon as the music ended.
A brief thunderstorm swept through the region.
The concert series and other music events will run each Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. through Aug, 16.