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Get ready for some lively outdoor tunes

David Markson stands in Veterans Park on Main Street where Xibaba will play at Music in the Park's first concert this Friday evening. <i>Gretta Stark photo</i>

The Music in the Park posters around town are twice as full this year because there'll be twice the concerts as last year. In addition to the regular Friday evening concerts, there will now be concerts Saturday afternoons from 3-5 p.m.

"The little park over there is such a nice place to have a music venue and to use it just once a week over the summer seemed like almost a waste of resource, so we thought the more times it can be used the better," said David Markson, chairman of the River Falls Community Arts Base's Music in the Park Committee.

Music in the Park is organized by CAB and sponsored by local businesses. Markson said finding groups to perform at Music in the Park is easy.

While the musicians are lining up to be included on the bill, finding enough funding for twice the concerts there have been in previous years was difficult, Markson said. He added that local sponsors have been very supportive.

In the past, Markson said, a large part of Music in the Park's funding came from St. Croix Valley Community Foundation grants that derived from the State Arts Board.

But state money for the arts has dwindled in recent years, and Music in the Park has been turned down for several grants.

While the River Falls Community Foundation has given grants to the program for three years now, it has asked Markson to find money elsewhere next year.

Music in the Park relies on weekly sponsors to help pay for the program. But this year a new "platinum" sponsorship level was created for sponsors who wanted to sponsor the entire program.

The River Falls Main Street Business Improvement District Board, Junior's Bar and Restaurant, River Falls State Bank, and First National Bank of River Falls are all platinum sponsors.

Junior's Bar plays music on Friday nights starting at nine when Music in the Park ends. The owners told Markson they would like to sponsor Music in the Park every week, so the platinum sponsorship level was created. Once the platinum level was established, other local businesses got interested in being platinum sponsors. These will have their names read off every week, rather than just the week they sponsor.

The program budget is $4,500 this year. Most of that money goes to paying the musicians who perform at the concerts.

Markson said he and the Music in the Park Committee -- this year only himself and Tommy Bentz -- look over a list of all the groups that have contacted them wanting to be a part of Music in the Park, and start deciding which ones will play at Music in the Park for the year.

"We try to bring back favorites, and support the local favorites and also try to bring in new people as well," said Markson.

Some of those favorites are Patchouli, playing this July 22, and Bentz himself playing Aug. 26. Most of the performers, even those new to Music in the Park, are local, and have played in the area. But Markson says, the special July 9, River Falls Days concert, is by Alma Desnuda, a band all the way from California.

"Somebody in the area saw them out there and e-mailed me and said, 'You should get these guys for music in the park. They're looking to travel in the region,' and actually, I think they have lined up some other things to do in the Twin Cities or around and so they were happy to include us on their little tour," said Markson.

There are six new acts in the Friday performances of Music in the Park this year. Markson said he is excited for all of the music happening in town this summer, and hopes that adding the Saturday performances will be a success.

There will be a distinction between the Friday concerts and the Saturday ones: Markson said the Friday concerts will focus primarily on larger bands, and the Saturday concerts will be mainly smaller groups.

Music in the Park starts this weekend with the Brazilian Jazz Trio Xibaba at 7 p.m. on Friday, and Old School at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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