Southsider Voice correspondent
Despite the wave of students returning to school and the rumors that summer is over, live music still emanates from Sarah T. Bolton Park in Beech Grove.
The Summer Concert Series began in 2008 with a Beech Party on the last day of Beech Grove's Fall Festival. This version ran through 2013, when it evolved into the current version of the concert series.
According to Greater Beech Grove Chamber of Commerce President Dawn Whalen, the concert series was a collaboration between the chamber and the city, while the chamber launched the Beech Party.
“We believe by creating events that will bring people to Beech Grove, that others will see what a great community it is, as well as visit our local businesses, and quite possibly plant the seed that Beech Grove is a great place to live or even open a business,” said Whalen.
Mayor Dennis Buckley has had the idea for the series since his election in 2011. “I love live music, and I wanted to incorporate it into the park system,” he said, adding that he wanted to “give people things to do over the summer that were free and would get them to come down and enjoy the parks.”
Jim Coffman, who owns Eckstein Shoe Store and Repair and serves on the chamber’s board of directors, said the chamber also receives help from the Beech Grove Promoters Club and Parks, Fire Department and Police departments.
“Beech Grove has an amazing Parks Department, and this gives people another chance to see what Beech Grove has to offer,” said Coffman. “It has also been a chance for several local bands and personalities to showcase their talents. I know events like these have the potential to bring many new people to Beech Grove,”
Concerts are generally held at Sarah T. Bolton due to its ample parking, playground equipment and sufficient space for families to bring blankets and chairs. The first of three concerts was July 27; the second was Aug. 17. Pure Gold Band and Big Roscoe & the Hammers performed at those shows, respectively; both groups showcase city residents or alumni of Beech Grove Schools.
The season finale will feature Current Situation taking the stage at 4 p.m. Sunday.
While the chamber has taken the lead on the program, Buckley said his role is to raise money.
“They put a lot of work into it, and it’s been good for the city,” he said. “We’ve had a couple private donors, but it’s mainly corporate partners. We've had several good corporate partners who did the underwriting on this.”
Sponsors include Citizens Energy Group, Ice Miller and ADM Milling. The concert also includes nonprofit food vendors selling tacos and pizzas, Holy Name of Jesus promoting Oktoberfest and Greyhound Pets of America Indy raising awareness about adopting retired racing greyhounds.
Erin Cramer, special events coordinator with Greyhound Pets, has noted the positive effect the concerts have had on the community.
“We get to see people of all ages come out to enjoy the music and to socialize,” she said. “It is so nice to see the people of Beech Grove come to one place and interact. Even the children get involved as they are able to get up and dance with the bands as they play; it is a great social event for everyone.”
Whalen said she hopes to grow the initiative beyond three days to gain more bands and entertainers. Several bands and performers have reached out to her expressing an interest in involvement.
“The series offers the community three different opportunities to come together and listen to great bands for free,” said Whalen. “It's a free, fun family event, where we can get to know our neighbors. Also of importance, is by changing direction and not doing the Beech Party as we have in the past, we have now created three additional days for people to come to Beech Grove.”
According to Buckley, planning for these events, which are usually well attended, begins in late winter or early spring. Whalen worked on securing bands and vendors for this year's series but noted that the help and support from those serving on the board of directors was crucial.
“We have been very fortunate this year to have the assistance of Mayor Buckley in regards to the fundraising to make the events possible,” Whalen said. “He secured the sponsorships for the event, and we are grateful for that.
Cramer noted that because Whalen has two greyhounds, the concerts would be an appropriate community venue for Greyhound Pets.
“We were one of the first vendors to sign up for the concert series and were pleased to do so,” said Cramer. “We had a tent at the first concert with four greyhounds to conduct what we call a meet and greet. ”
Weather provides the biggest obstacle, said Whalen. “Our first concert was cut short due to inclement weather, but everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves before the rain arrived.”
Cramer noted that she enjoys seeing everyone together pulling off a great community event where people can relax from daily life and enjoy the music and social scene.
“I would like to share how much I personally enjoyed this event, even though I am not from Beech Grove,” she said. "It is a wonderfully diverse town that has much to offer. The people are wonderful, and the event is worth the drive, whether you are coming from in town or from outside of Beech Grove.”