The Sounds of Summer

Photo courtesy Larry DavidsonThe Sounds of SummerA Score of Outdoor Summer Concerts Hits a High Note for Music Fans on the Emerald Coast

By Zandra Wolfgram

Orchestrating a family outing al fresco along the Emerald Coast is a breeze. With dozens of free summer concerts to choose from, arranging an evening of music under the stars is as simple as “a-one-and-a-two-and-a-three.”

But this summer’s lineup is not your mother’s “Lawrence Welk Show.” Event promoters are mixing it up beyond the standards of classical and jazz, introducing reggae, rhythm and blues, folk, blues, bluegrass – and perhaps even an appearance by the King of Rock ’n’ Roll – at many of the area’s outdoor concerts.

You Can’t Stop the Beach
Capitalizing on the Emerald Coast’s greatest asset – the beach – many resort and residential communities are putting event venues center stage. Seaside, Alys Beach and the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation all have invested in amphitheater spaces, while WaterColor and Rosemary Beach have designated green spaces specifically intended for music concerts and other events.

In music, timing is everything. Luckily, local promoters have considered the fact that the Emerald Coast’s temperatures climb higher than a Beverly Sills C note during the summer. The Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation, which was formed in 1995 to promote the arts and education on the Emerald Coast, places its series early in the season; concerts span eight weeks, from May into June.

For many music lovers, the heat of summer includes the warmth radiating from a spirited community event. According to Tim Krueger, senior vice president of investments for Merrill Lynch and a longtime sponsor of Mattie Kelly’s Concerts in the Park, the series is about connecting.

“The concerts promise a great time for everyone,” Krueger says. “There is camaraderie and fellowship. You feel like you know everyone, but because we are open to the public, you see new faces, too.”

Krueger, who also is an emcee for the series, has not missed a performance in the past 12 years.

“I work in an office all day, so I love being outdoors,” he says. “The concerts are a chance to put on a Tommy Bahama shirt, get comfortable and have fun outside.”

Help Me, Rondeau
Many of the Emerald Coast’s concert series are so popular that they return year after year. The long-running Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation concert program has grown and evolved into an eight-week concert series called Concerts in the Park. This year’s event will be held on Thursdays at 7 p.m. in Destin’s Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village.

Alys Beach will whitewash the summer blues with its refreshing music series, Après Beach at Fonville Press, each Friday beginning at 5 p.m. Known for its distinctive and pristine stone villas, Alys Beach welcomes families to its series to enjoy food, wine and friendship.

Music finds a common ground in everyone. Perhaps the same can be said for the First Friday monthly music concerts at Destin Commons. Though it spans some 470,000 square feet, the shopping plaza showcases entertainment in a way that allows busy shoppers to gather in the center plaza with family and friends. On June 6, from 6 to 10 p.m., you can go Hawaiian at the Aloha Polynesian Review, a showcase of authentic dancing and music celebrating Hawaiian, Samoan and Tahitian traditions. On July 4, the series will feature a patriotic concert and fireworks beginning at 8:30 p.m.

Though Rosemary Beach doesn’t have a traditional music series, it will throw an old-fashioned block party called Kids Rock the Block in the Town Center, complete with activities, food and music entertainment, on Tuesday, July 15, at 6 p.m.

Nearly 30 years ago, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort put the beach in the Beach Boys, holding one of the first big-name concerts in the area. Today, the resort presents nearly 200 outdoor events a year. New Orleans-inspired architecture is a vibrant backdrop at The Village of Baytowne Wharf’s Events Plaza, where you can catch a variety of acts, such as Ronnie Satterfireld, the Ugli Stick and Chubby Carrier, during the Wednesday Night Concert Series at 7 p.m.

On the resort’s south side, The Market Shops at Sandestin invested $20,000 to transform a pond into the shopping area’s Cypress Green. Now, Mondays are a day to look forward to with a concert series showcasing performers such as David Seering, Reed Waddle, and Motor City Josh and the Big 3 each week at 6 p.m.

Synonymous with summer any time of year, idyllic Seaside invites music lovers to its Summer Concert Series on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. When you go, make your way to Modica Market first to fill your picnic basket with gourmet delights; then sprawl on the grass of the amphitheater in the town center. “It’s great to watch kids make new friends and dance in front of the stage while parents sit back, relax and listen to some really good music,” says Kristin Banker, executive director of The Merchants of Seaside.

Sinfonia Gulf Coast is to summer concerts what white linen is to the beach: perfectly suited. This year, the modernized orchestra led by maestro Demetrius Fuller will perform its annual Fourth of July Pops concert at Seaside as part of the town’s Independence Day Celebration. The concert, sponsored by the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation, begins at 7:30 p.m. with fireworks to follow.

This summer, conduct an evening under the stars with your family at any of the Emerald Coast’s outdoor musical performances, and you are sure to score beyond measure.

Doo Be Dos … and Don’tsWhat to Wear – Lightweight clothing, comfortable shoes and a light jacket. Don’t forget to lather on sunscreen and a dose of insect repellent.

What to Take – Snacks (if the venue doesn’t host a concession), a blanket or lightweight chair, an umbrella and trash bag.

Where to Park – Arrive early for the best parking, but many venues offer valet service.

Shush – Refrain from loud chatter, and be sure to silence your cell phone.