Thousands attend free concerts, exposing new artists
If you go
Location: Long's Park Amphitheater Stage, 1441 Harrisburg Pike, Lancaster
Entertainment: Live music of varying genres from blues tunes to country music and cajun sounds.
Food: Food trucks feature American cuisine and many summertime favorites like pizza, cotton candy and funnel cakes.
Parking: available in parking lots in park and in field adjacent to the amphitheater lawn
Time: Every Sunday night at 7:30 through August 30
Price: All concerts are free but accept and appreciate donations to the Long's Park Amphitheater Foundation
June 21 — Allegro (classical)
June 28 — Spanish Harlem Orchestra (jazz, hard salsa)
July 5 — Pershing's Own (US Army, patriotic)
July 12 — Tizer (jazz)
July 19 — Lake Street Dive (indie, soul, rock)
July 26 — Parker Millsap (acoustic, soul)
August 2 — The Brothers Landreth (folk, americana)
August 9 — The Fogcutters (big band, funk, rock)
August 16 — J.C. Brooks & The Uptown Sound (soul)
August 23 — Socks in the Frying Pan (Irish traditional)
August 30 — Amanda Shaw (Southern, Cajun)
For more details, visit: longspark.org/summer-music-series
People gathered tightly on lawn chairs and blankets toward the front of the stage, catching glimpses of the rich wooden and brass instruments waiting to be picked up and played.
The Long's Park amphitheater glowed blue and purple as music reverberated off the concrete stage and into the crowd, alongside sounds of clapping and yelling as Selwyn Birchwood 's band opened with a first song Sunday evening. The tunes from Birchwood's shiny red guitar kicked off the summer-long Sunday night concert series for the 2015 season.
"Welcome to our party," said Bill Wright, the head of development and fundraising for the Long's Park Amphitheater Foundation when introducing the lead singer and his band, known as a "Blues fireball."
This "party" is in its 53rd year at Long's Park this summer, aiming to expose new artists and celebrate live music.
"Thank ya'll for supporting live music," Birchwood said to the thousands of concert-goers playing, dancing and lounging on the sloped lawn.
That love of live music is what drew Rich Low to the Long's Park Amphitheater Foundation board. Low, a record-store owner-turned lawyer, helps create the line-up of bands for the summer series as the music chair for the Amphitheater Foundation. The common thread among the diverse groups set to play this summer – whose music genres run from jazz group, Tizer to violinist Amanda Shaw's cajun sound – is their talent.
Sunday night, audience members weaved in and out of the blankets and groups of chairs with ease, but on particular evenings, like the Fourth of July celebration each year, it is hard to find an open patch of grass.
The sizes and types of crowds will fluctuate through the summer, like they do every year, Low said, because he and the rest of the board make a concerted effort to produce 13 very different groups each season.
"The only common denominator for these musicians, is that they are all really, really good," Low said.
Although more people attend each year, much of the crowd makes Sunday night attendance a tradition.
College student Allison Martell and her friends gather every Sunday night as a way to reconnect after spending their school years in different parts of the country. She said that, while not all of the music is of their taste, it's something to look forward to at the end of every week.
"Sometimes we hang on the blanket, and sometimes we get up and dance if we are in to the music. But mostly, we are here to spend time together," she said.
Millersville-based couple Douglas and Kathy Keene have been attending the Sunday night concerts for at least 25 years.
"The variety is what we enjoy," Kathy Keene said. "They try to reach everybody's taste in music."
In their lawn chairs with a blanket wrapped around them is where Douglas Kenne said they love to come out into the fresh air and "people watch."
"I said to her on the way here earlier: I will continue to come here on Sunday evenings as long as I live in the area and am able-bodied," Douglas Kenne said. "And you can't beat the price."
While the concerts are free and open for anyone to attend, they run on the proceeds of the Long's Park Art & Craft Festival each Labor Day weekend and donations collected by 10-12 volunteers each week.
The donors on the lawn are different people with a common love of being outside and listening to good music, said volunteer Erika Faulkner. "I walk around and am reminded that Lancaster is such a diverse, cool community."
That community is represented in the parents, grandparents, children, friends and animals that attend each week.
"We're on our 14th show in 16 days," Birchwood shouts right before the last song of the evening. As the sun set and temperatures dropped, groups hauled in their toys, kids and dogs to listen closely to Birchwood's last few notes.
"But you know what?" Birchwood said, strumming the first chords of the last song of the evening. "I get to do what I love, so I'm not tired in this moment -- I hope you aren't either."