If there’s music in the park, it must be summer … even if Mother Nature isn’t cooperating.
While we can’t count on the weather, we can count on some great music offered up for free in Elmira’s Gore Park, the Sunday Night Concert Series having returned to the bandstand as of June 2.
As the name implies, the concert series takes place every Sunday night throughout the summer months, running through until August 25. Last weekend’s first show featured a Guelph-based bluegrass band, the Maple Sugar Sweethearts, who drew a large crowd.
“One day this year, I want to actually count the crowd – we’ve always just estimated,” said organizer and musician Lance Russwurm. “I’m guessing we get from 400 to 1,200. If it’s 1,000 to 1,200 … that’s a lot of people for that little park. It’s always full, even bad weather days.”
The concert series began in 2006 under Lance’s late father, Lynn Russwurm, a local musician whose goal was to provide a venue for traditional country music. Lynn organized the performances, booking a variety of country and bluegrass bands for weekly shows for a decade until Lance took over after his father’s death.
“It started out really casually. I think when my dad was first doing it even before it was officially a show, they were having impromptu jam sessions in there. They might get around 10 or 20 people show up,” said Russwurm. “Now it’s a very popular event, and people are asking well in advance.”
Every band performing is well-known locally among country and bluegrass music lovers, complete with their own fan bases. There is a mix of closer-to-home and faraway performers – for example, Twas Now featuring Mike and Diana Erb hail from New Hamburg, while Wendy Lynn Snyder is a classic country entertainer from St. Catharines.
Several new bands are performing in the 2019 lineup. Russwurm added that there are always more bands interested in playing than organizers have openings for, likely due to the peaceful park setting and gazebo stage, along with the reputation the series has gained over the years.
“There’s a lot of bands that have been pretty regular because they’re very popular locally. I think the quality is very good lately,” said Russwurm. “A lot of bands actually get paid better than they do playing at bars and stuff. It’s a very nice crowd to play for because it’s not a bar – they’re paying attention, they listen, they applaud, so it’s very pleasant. On a nice summer night, it’s one of the nicest places you can play at.”
Russwurm is scheduled to perform himself on July 28, lining up around his birthday. Coming from a family of country musicians, Russwurm naturally kept up the tradition and became a talented performer in his own right.
Cancelled events are rare, he noted, at a rate of about one per year. Occasionally there may be a cancellation if the weather does not cooperate – in which case, organizers will post a status on The Elmira Sunday Night Concert Series (@elmirasundayconcerts) Facebook page by 4 p.m. More in-depth information about each band is also provided online.
The concert series takes place Sunday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. at the corner of Arthur Street and Memorial Avenue at Gore Park. There is no cost to attend, though if you wish you contribute, there is a donation box available. You are advised to bring a lawn chair.
The 2019 schedule:
- June 9: Amberley Beatty
- June 16: The New Cumberland Band
- June 23: Dianne and The Cavaliers
- June 30: Naomi Bristow with Steve Piticco
- July 7: Twas Now – Mike and Diana Erb
- July 14: Doug Dietrich and Sunrise with special guest Randy Satchell
- July 21: Wendy Lynn Snider
- July 28: Lance Russwurm
- Aug 4: Fred Lewis and Ridin’ High
- Aug 11: The Chaparrals
- Aug 18: U-Turn
- Aug 25: Rick Loucks & Southbound