Mark Kunz of Puget Sound area-based band Moonlight Swing Orchestra says the group does whatever it takes to get people off their feet and dance.
When Kunz and his bandmates last played on South Whidbey in Community Park, they were happy to find eager dancers who kept shuffling despite the less-than-ideal grassy surface. The 18-piece swing band is returning to the South End, and this time should be no different.
“The people on South Whidbey really like to dance, and the grass didn’t stop them last time,” Kunz said. “That’s a good thing. If you can sit still while we’re playing this kind of music, we’re doing it wrong.”
Moonlight Swing Orchestra, a “big band style” swing band complete with saxophones, a brass section, rhythm section and vocalist, will provide the tunes tonight as the Concerts in the Park series kicks off in Langley. Hosted by South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District, the annual concert series takes full advantage of the Community Park grounds by organizing live music events on alternating Wednesdays. The parks district sets up a stage area at the bottom of the hill near Castle Park and the skatepark, ensuring those in attendance get a good view of the performers from the incline.
The concerts are held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and span a range of music genres. Following Moonlight Swing Orchestra’s performance, the Americana/folk infused Norman Baker Band plays in the park on Wednesday, Aug. 2. South Whidbey’s own finger style acoustic guitar wizard, Quinn Fitzpatrick, rounds out the series with a performance on Wednesday, Aug. 16.
The concerts are free.
“We try to host a variety of music that brings a different crowd out each time,” Carrie Monforte, parks district program coordinator, said. “Some of the concerts are more about kicking back and relaxing. Some are more lively, like the performance on Wednesday.”
For Monforte, one of her favorite aspects to the performances is the diverse age span that turns out to soak up the sun and live tunes. Toddlers and little ones running across the lawn or dancing with their parents are regular sights, while the adult crowd enjoys the view of the stage and setting sun from the hill. For kids who aren’t interested in the music, there’s plenty of room to roam at the nearby Castle Park or on the adjacent fields.
“There always seems to be a broad range of people from babies to high schoolers to older folks,” Monforte said. “I always love an activity that brings different people together outdoors, and that’s our goal with the concerts.”
The concert series is the first event where South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District will provide an enclosed beer and wine garden in Community Park. The decision to provide an area for adults to have a drink was made in the months leading up to the concert series; events with booze are required to be OK’d from parks district commissioners prior to the occasion. An area will be fenced in, according to Monforte, and will be patrolled by volunteers from Rotary Club of South Whidbey Island.
The money raised from the beer garden will benefit the proposed amphitheater project in Community Park.
“We’ve got the beer and wine garden this year, so that should loosen people up a little,” Kunz said. “What better way to support your parks and rec than dancing to live music in the park?”
The concerts are sponsored by Music for the Eyes, South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District and Windermere. Their contributions allow the concerts to have free admission.