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Central Park Perks Up

Sunday concerts at Central Park bring community together.

Sunday summer concerts sponsored by the McLean Community Center (MCC) are drawing bigger and bigger crowds each weekend. This is the third year the concerts have been offered at the gazebo in Central Park. The series has become so successful that expansions to the program are already in the works.

The concerts began this month and run through July 25. They are free to the public. Each concert begins at 3 p.m. and lasts about one hour. The park is accessed through the parking lot at the Dolley Madison Library.

“The governing board at the Community Center wanted to expand the programming and do something to expand the sense of community,” said MCC program director Clare Kiley. “The free concerts at the gazebo have created a musical hub for the community. We’ve gotten very positive feedback on them,” Kiley said.

According to Kiley, several members of the community approached the MCC governing board a few years ago with the idea of concerts in the park. They cited the success other communities have had offering concerts in the warm months as a reason McLean should try it.

“ATTENDANCE GOES UP every year as more and more people in the community learn about it. It’s a great opportunity for people to bring the family together on the weekend and spend some time together outside,” Kiley said.

This fall the Community Center is adding a new concert series aimed at children, which will be held on Wednesday afternoons.

“We’d like to use the gazebo and the park more. This is one way we’re starting to do that,” said Kiley.

Even though the free concerts have been going on for several years and are attended by hundreds each Sunday, they are often overlooked by residents. This may be partly because Central Park is accessible only through the library. It’s situated on the corner of Dolley Madison and Old Dominion, in plain view, but walking to it from central McLean can be hazardous at best because of the speed in which cars travel down those roads and the lack of a crosswalk to enter and exit the facility.

“I grew up here, and I kind of forgot that this park was even here,” said concert attendee Susan Harper. “This is a really nice place on a nice day. It’s nice to be outside, and the music was really good,” Harper said.

Performer Dave Chappell said that the musicians enjoy the opportunity to play in the outdoor venue as much as the concert-goers enjoy being outside. “We like it because it’s open air, it’s not smoky, and the people can come and go as they want. The sound is really good here, too. It’s a nice change from playing inside. This gig was wonderful,” Chappell said.

He and his band have been playing at MCC for three years. In the fall and winter, they play at the Alden Theater inside the Community Center.

The concerts are held only during the daylight hours because there is insufficient lighting to allow pedestrians to safely navigate the woodland path leading from the library to the gazebo at Central Park.

The upcoming free concerts are as follows:

June 27 — The Commodores, the U.S. Navy’s premier jazz ensemble

July 11 — Ross Rickerson Band, traditional and contemporary bluegrass

July 18 — Swing Shift Dance Band, an 18-piece big band

July 25 — Juggernaut Jug Band, combining jazz, blues, ragtime and swing for a unique sound.