Music in the Park Series Takes Hold in Downtown Centralia


Centralia residents have waited for years to have their own Music in the Park summer series akin to the annual set of concerts in Chehalis.

Based on the reception so far this year, particularly for the show on Saturday night, the Centralia Downtown Association is confident they’ve found the recipe for consistency following prior attempts that fizzled out.

Nearly 400 people attended Saturday’s shindig — the third of four scheduled for this summer in George Washington Park — to hear the music of Olympia-based rock band Strike 9. Event coordinators chose to pay homage to the 50th anniversary of Woodstock by encouraging people to wear tie-dye clothing and bask in the aura of spontaneity.

Plenty of patrons complied, whether by breaking out old pairs of tinted glasses, making signs out of wooden stakes and cardboard, or by blowing bubbles into the crowd. One person waited until dark to deploy their glow-in-the-dark hula hoops, a crowd favorite according to CDA board member Rebecca Staebler.

“We’ve had great attendance all summer, but I would say the largest crowd was probably this one,” Staebler said. “People got dressed up and I think they got into the spirit of the theme. All of the concerts have gone well and have gotten a good response from the public.”

New CDA member Maritza Lopez took on the task of resurrecting Music in the Park earlier this year after a rise in interest from the public and from fellow members. She put together a diverse lineup of musical acts ranging from jazz tunes by Dmitri Matheny Group earlier this summer to a scheduled appearance by Carnales de Tierra Caliente on Sept. 14.

The latter is a Hispanic band that will serve as the centerpiece for a celebration of Mexican Independence Day, which falls on Sept. 16. There will be other activities honoring Hispanic culture in the park. Centralia College has traditionally hosted a celebration Mexican Independence Day around the same time.

“Something we’d like to do more of in the future is to have more concurrent events that tie into the theme of our monthly concert,” Staebler said. “We want to tie it into something that’s happening, like we did with Woodstock, to broaden the appeal. They won’t necessarily be at the same time, but maybe there’s the potential for like a week of activities around certain things.”

Centralia City Council member Peter Abbarno has served as emcee for the Music in the Park series this summer. He said that it’s a testament to the work of Lopez, her committee and the CDA that they’ve solidified the event to the point that his family still made the point to attend after a long day of volunteering and Southwest Washington Fair activities.

He also highlighted the addition of food trucks to the scene, and agrees with Staebler about the potential for shows with broader scopes, such as the one set for next month.

“I’m just happy that the public has really embraced it this year,” Abbarno said. “It’s exciting for people to be able to walk a few blocks into town and see a free concert each month during the summer. It’s a crowd that’s respectful and is there to enjoy the music — I’ve been to all three and there haven’t been any issues at all.”

Musical acts have noticed the family-friendly atmosphere from their stage inside the park gazebo. Brian Cockrell, guitarist and lead vocalist for Strike 9, called Saturday’s audience “classy” and added the group would be more than happy to return next summer.

“Everybody had a great time,” Cockrell said. “There were people dancing, kids hula-hooping and there was a magic show during the intermission that was a lot of fun. It was quite a good turnout and overall, just a great event.”