Parks throughout McHenry County have their own theme music.
As the breeze blows and clouds swirl, drums keep rhythm on outdoor stages. Audiences settle in on blades of grass, lawn chairs, blankets or even boats, some with picnic dinners as they chew to the beat of the music.
For many, weekly concerts in the park are tradition.
They settle in for both the music – whether traditional Americana music from city bands, rock, country, reggae or R&B – and the atmosphere.
“There is nothing better than sitting under the stars on a summer night and listening to very enjoyable music,” said Mary Ann Landon of Crystal Lake, who travels weekly to McHenry to watch the McHenry City Band perform at Veterans Memorial Park.
The band takes to the gazebo stage on Thursday nights, playing songs based on themes, such as Audience Request, Patriotic and Summer Fun. With her husband, Michael Bazan, as director, Maureen Christine has accompanied the band in song since the 1970s.
Spectators either bring their own food or buy items from vendors as they’re treated to music for all ages.
“There’s a special energy that is actually palatable when you hear and feel 16 musicians playing music,” Christine said. “It’s a very Norman Rockwell version of Americana, and it’s a beautiful local version of Ravinia.”
The musicianship of the band draws in fans, such as Landon, but also the setting.
“They play wonderful tunes that bring back great memories of musicals and the big band era,” she said. “Meeting friends and watching little children dance to the music while enjoying coffee and ice cream is neat.”
While McHenry’s Veterans Memorial Park and the Woodstock Square – with its accompanying Ice Cream Socials on Wednesdays – host city bands, others bring in a variety of music, everything from pop to rock to country and soul.
At Main Beach in Crystal Lake on Tuesday nights this summer where spectators can watch leisurely from docked boats, bands will emulate the music of the Beatles, Lady Gaga, Jimmy Buffet and others.
The Crystal Lake Park District also will host the more traditional music of the Crystal Lake Community Band and Voices in Harmony, a concert paired with fireworks July 6.
A tradition for about 15 years, Cary’s concerts on Thursdays at Lions Park average 500 to 600 people, said Katie Hughes, director of marketing and communications for the Cary Park District.
This summer, the district is bringing in newer bands, such as a recent performance by the Shinehammer, a Teen Battle of the Band winner, which rocked the Rotary Bandshell as audience members lined a grassy hill.
“We have adults with children. Sometimes they bring their pets. You can see couples that maybe are on a date night or a night out away from children,” Hughes said. “They bring their picnic lunch or pick up a pizza or some take-out on the way over and just spread out their blankets and listen to music.”
As the fresh air enhances the music, it also seems to make the food taste better and the night somewhat lulling.
“Even hot dogs taste better in the park,” said Donna Reber of Crystal Lake, a McHenry City Band fan. “It’s just a nice little drive up there and a nice evening in the park, very relaxing.”
Following is a list of various concerts in parks throughout the area:
McHENRY CITY BAND, Veterans Memorial Park, 3400 Pearl St., McHenry. Free summer jazz concerts. All concerts start at 7:30 p.m. Schedule: June 19, Audience Request Night; July 3, Patriotic Night; July 10, Family Night; July 24, Summer Fun; July 31, Season Finale. Food vendors available. Bring lawn chairs and blankets. Information: www.mchenrycityband.com/concerts.
CARY SUMMER CONCERT IN THE PARK SERIES, Rotary Bandshell in Lions Park, 1170 Silver Lake Road, Cary. Hosted by the Cary Park District. All concerts begin at 7 p.m. Schedule: June 19, Jennerator Band (pop hits to country to classic rock); June 26, Liberty's Teeth (rock, pop, country and dance); July 10, Jump Taxi (premiere cover band); July 17, Saturday June Band (rock and roll from the '60s to today). Free. Information: 847-639-6200 or www.carypark.com.
CRYSTAL LAKE CONCERTS IN THE PARK, Main Beach, 300 Lake Shore Drive, Crystal Lake. Hosted by the Crystal Lake Park District. Concerts start at 7 p.m. Schedule: June 24, New Odyssey (3 guys- 30 instruments); July 1, New Invaders (Beatles & early '60s); July 2, Voices in Harmony; July 6, Crystal Lake Community Band and Voices in Harmony fireworks concert; July 8, Final Say (classic rock to Lady Gaga); July 15, Johnny Russler (Buffet, calypso and reggae); July 22, Student Body (favorite high school hits); July 29, Jin & Tonic (current/classic country and rock); Aug. 5, Crystal Lake Community Band; Aug. 9, Bad Medicine performs at Black Diamond Blast on the Beach (6:30 p.m. start); Aug. 12, Bill O'Connell Chicago Skyliners (Big Band). In the event of inclement weather, concert will be moved to Park Place, 406 W. Woodstock St., Crystal Lake. Free. Information: 815-459-0680 or www.crystallakeparks.org.
WOODSTOCK CITY BAND, concerts in the Park on the Square, Woodstock. All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. Schedule: June 25, "How Suite"; July 2, "Let Freedom Ring"; July 9, "Hot and Cold"; July 16, "Out Playlist"; July 23, "Journeys"; July 30, "Musical Potpourri." Free. Information: 815-338-4301.
ALGONQUIN SUMMER CONCERT SERIES, Riverfront Park, 201 N. Harrison St., Algonquin. Hosted by the village of Algonquin. All concerts start at 7:30 p.m. Schedule: June 26, The Flat Cats (blues/swing); July 3, Saturday June Band (classic rock); July 10, Mandy Z & rural Route One (country); July 17, Liberty's Teeth (pop); July 24, Pirates over 40* (Caribbean); July 31, R-Gang (Motown/R&B); Aug. 7, Phidget ('80s); Aug. 14, Mr. Myers Band (Caribbean). Food vendors available. *Pirates Over 40 performance will take place at Algonquin Lakes Park, 700 Lake Plumleigh Way for Founders' Days. Information: 847-658-2700 or www.algonquin.org/recreation.
HAMPSHIRE CONCERT IN THE PARK, 3 p.m. June 28, St. John's United Church of Christ pavilion, Route 20 & Harmony Road, Hampshire. Project Two will present an afternoon of rock Broadway hits. Hear a variety of tunes from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons as they honor the stage musical "Jersey Boys." Bring lawn chairs. Free. Information: 847-721-6101.
RINGWOOD FIRST FRIDAY CONCERT SERIES, 7 to 8:30 p.m. July 11, Aug. 1 and Sept. 5, Lost Valley Visitor Center patio at Glacial Park, Route 31 and Harts Road, Ringwood. Free concerts hosted by the McHenry county Conservation District. Schedule: July 11, Project Two; Aug. 1, Diego Alonso Flamenco Ensemble; Sept. 5, Cheryl Niemo and the Down Home Boys. Bring a picnic and lawn chairs. Information: 815-479-5779 or www.mccdistrict.org.
LAKE IN THE HILLS SUMMER CONCERT, 7 p.m. Aug. 2, Village Hall, 600 Harvest Gate, Lake in the Hills. Pack up the family, the folding chairs and the bug spray and head over to Village Hall for some entertainment under the night sky. Shindig, a '60s tribute band, will feature songs by The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Cryan' Shames. In case of inclement weather, the concert will be moved to the Village Hall multipurpose room.
CONCERTS IN THE PARK, 7 to 8:30 p.m. June 20, DuPage (sounds of Motown) at Lions Park, 570 Penny Road, East Dundee; 7:30 to 9 p.m. June 28, Classic Blast (followed by a fireworks show) at Meadowdale Park, Besginger and Maple Avenue, Carpentersville. Hosted by the Dundee Township Park District. Free. Information: 847-428-7131 or www.dtpd.org.
MUSIC BY THE LAKE, June 28 through Aug. 17, Ferro Pavilion on the campus of George Williams College of Aurora University, 350 Constance Blvd., Williams Bay, Wisconsin. Schedule: 7:30 p.m. June 28, Blood, Sweat & Tears with Bo Bice; 7:30 p.m. July 19, BritBeat; 4 p.m. July 27, Laurie Berkner: The You & Me Tour; 7:30 p.m. Aug. 2, Jim Witter's Piano Men: A Musical Journey through the 1970s featuring the music of Elton John and Billy Joel; 7:30 p.m. Aug. 9, The Beach Boys; 4 p.m. Aug. 17, Ladies for Liberty with the All-Star SUPERband. Tickets: $20-$100. Tickets and information: 262-245-8501 or www.musicbythelake.com.
ST. CHARLES CONCERT IN THE PARK, 4:30 p.m. June 29, Pottawatomie Park, 8 North Ave., St. Charles. The Fox Valley Academy and Philharmonic will perform uniquely American music in its "Concert in the Park" performance. Free. Bring a picnic dinner or concessions available at the Park. Information: 630-476-9072 or www.fvacademy.org.By JAMI KUNZER email@example.com