1 Celebrating Summer
when the weather warms up in the Chippewa Valley, outdoor music series proliferate with thousands of fans
by Lindsey Quinnies / photos by Andrea Paulseth
When summer finally arrives, we look forward to one of the most significant aspects of summer living – outdoor music. Over the past few years, the abundance, attitude, and accessibility of small-scale outdoor concerts in the Chippewa Valley has become a sincerely extraordinary, distinctive experience.
There are currently 15 weekly outdoor concert series on six different nights of the week throughout the Chippewa Valley (not including regular venues that offer outdoor performances sporadically, larger outdoor festivals, and indoor concert series). Depending on the day of the week, there could be more than 3,000 people attending an outdoor concert series per night and up to 10,000 attending per week from June to September – all within about a 40-mile radius of one another. Since we’re no big city here, such numbers are notable. For a listing of them all, visit VolumeOne.org/MusicCapital.
The ability to attend an outdoor music performance on a near-daily basis has become fundamental to life in the Chippewa Valley … and we’re lucky to have that. Many communities have embraced outdoor music culture and offer it in some way, but it’s different here. It’s not only that concerts exist in abundance, but also the quality and aptitude of the artists performing and the way these events are put together. For these we’re not talking big-time festivals, but local venues featuring local musicians organized by local people.
Artists are beyond eager to participate and perform original content more often than not. The coordinators are passionate about offering something beneficial to their community and showcasing the talent of the people within. It’s like we have the magic formula for creating outdoor musical awesomeness.
If you look back ten years ago, this wasn’t the case just yet. Most of the series we have now have developed in the last ten years by dedicated individuals that saw the potential available and/or recognized the growing demand brought on by the success of other series in the area.
Many of the concert series organizers shared a common idea that the success of one series seems to inspire the next, which is probably a contributing factor as to why we’ve seen the number of series grow in a snowball effect over the past several years. The success of larger ventures led to more demand for that type of entertainment close to home. Each concert series definitely brings its own panache, but together they create a synergy that shows off the richness of musical styles represented in this area and the talent possessed within each. From blues to indie, jazz to folk, big bands to rock – everything’s in the mix.
Just to touch on a few, Mondays you’ll find “ParkBeats” at Central Park in Osseo, presented by The Heartbeat Center for Writing, Literacy and the Arts. Tuesdays offers “Tuesday Night Blues” at the Owen Park bandshell in Eau Claire, which greets crowds of 500+ nightly and has been put on by the Chippewa Valley Blues Society for the past seven years. The Volume One “Sounds Like Summer Concert Series” on Thursdays in Phoenix Park is now in its 10th anniversary season and has grown to a crowd size of roughly 2,000 each night and formed into its own weekly festival. “Music in the Park” takes place in Altoona, Durand, Chippewa Falls, and Colfax at various venues. “Music Over Menomin” is hosted in Menomonie by the public library and greets crowds of up to up to 400+ nightly. “Wine Down Saturdays” at Autumn Harvest Winery, “Summer Concert Sunday” at Riverbend Winery, and “Hoots and Happening” at Bullfrog Fish Farm offer music alongside their refreshment selection throughout the week. I could go on…
A contributing factor to all of this, besides the multifaceted music culture, is the setting. The picturesque landscape experienced here exists year-round, but only offers allowing weather on short-term basis. This exclusivity emphasizes our need and adoration for this kind of entertainment when it is obtainable and, I think, contributes to the amount of outdoor music we find readily available in the Music Capital of the North.