Outdoor Concerts Spread Sense of Community

Outdoor Concerts Spread Sense of Community

Every summer, Fairfax County offers outdoor concerts on the weekends.

Michele and Rachelle Karabin were working up a sweat dancing to Li'l Malcom & The Zydeco House Rockers. They, along with a plaza full of people, were enjoying another Friday night of music at the Kingstowne Town Center.

Children dominated the dance area in front of the band as many families enjoyed the music and party atmosphere of the outdoor concert series put on by Fairfax County and local sponsors. Kingstowne is just one of the 14 venues hosting Fairfax County's 250 outdoor concerts throughout the summer, according to Susan Frankeberger, Fairfax County Park Authority's events and volunteer manager.

"It really brings the community together," Frankeberger said. "It's a bonding thing for the family too."

The concert series features a variety of music genres.

"We want to introduce people to music of different cultures, a mix of everything," Frankeberger said. "We do not exclude anything, we try not to do something that's too loud."

Although it's Frankeberger's job to pick the bands, she receives many recommendations from people connected with the concert series. Most of the musicians are from Virginia but not all.

"I go to different venues, read about them, they call or friends recommend them. A majority of them are from Virginia," Frankeberger said.

At a recent Friday night, Laurie Higgins, from the Kingstowne Homeowners Association, looked at the packed plaza.

"We went last year from 500 to 1,200 [people] on the pavilion. This year, we start at 1,100," Higgins said.

This was the third venue Alexandria residents Chris and Rita Foss visited. They also attended concerts at Lee District Park and Fort Hunt Park as well, setting up lawn chairs and a blanket for a picnic with their children.

"They were fun, these guys [children] liked running up and down the paths. We usually schedule it for a play-date," Chris Foss said.

Kingstowne resident Misty French found the concert series schedule on the park authority Web site [www.co.fairfax.va.us/living/parks/].

"It seems like a great summer, Friday evening thing to do," French said.

IN THE BRADDOCK DISTRICT, the Braddock Nights concerts take place at Lake Royal Park and Lake Accotink Park. Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) is a big supporter of the summer concert series. She tries to be a regular every week at the shows.

"It's always euphoric, people love the concerts," Bulova said.

Local musician Chris Johnson even wrote an original musical lead-in for the Braddock Nights concerts.

"It debuted for the first time at Royal Lake in June. It's our theme music, it builds up like '2001 A Space Odyssey' [theme]," Bulova said.

Although the county does supply the sound system and electricity, funds to pay the bands and other operating expenses come through donations, Frankeberger said. Major contributors are McDonald's, Exxon-Mobil, Remax, Verizon, Cox Communications, Hilltop Sand and Gravel and Dominion-Virginia Power. Over 100 smaller and private donors provide additional support.