River of Music concert series returns for second season

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Triple Threat, a country and rock band made up of Jesse Moser, Steve Moser, and Scott Fischer, opens the River of Music Concert series on June 5. (Press photo by Shelia Tomkins)

By Molly Moser

Umbrella Arts has announced the schedule for their upcoming River of Music concert series. For the second consecutive summer, Umbrella Arts celebrates local musicians with 10 free Friday night concerts in the park in Guttenberg.

Last year, the family friendly event drew an estimated 1500 visitors over the course of the summer with musical groups like Sounds of Nashville, Friends of the Backbone Bluegrass Festival, Topp Flight, and Uncle Sam’s Band. Many of those bands are returning this summer for the opportunity to play an outdoor show alongside the Mississippi River. 

The venue is indeed unique. River of Music concerts take place in Guttenberg’s beautiful riverfront park. The audience gathers in lawn chairs on the grass, while the musicians play beneath a band shell built by a local boy scout. 

“All the bands were very positive about last summer and didn't hesitate to say yes for playing again this summer. They seemed very enthusiastic about River of Music," said organizer Sherry Oliver. "They really want to help promote the community of Guttenberg and the river view while people relax, listening to the music.” 

The performers share an interest in performing alongside the river, but their musical tastes vary greatly. From country to bluegrass to rock, River of Music organizers aim to plan something for everyone. 

In a survey taken after last year's concert series, enthusiasm for all of the local sounds was abundant. Respondents indicated that the perceived event emphasis was on celebrating local talent and a free come as you are, bring your picnic, family friendly happening.

River of Music is made possible by many local sponsors who show their appreciation for the arts by generously supporting the concerts. “Several sponsors asked to be included after their experience last summer and those include Guttenberg Industries, Kann Manufacturing, Brown’s, and Margaret Mackey and family,” said organizer MJ Smith. “Their support was critical and gives confidence to the volunteers to go forward.”

Sponsorships make the free concert series possible, and those sponsors aren’t the only ones supporting the arts. Umbrella Arts volunteers host each concert and help by cleaning up the park after concerts, introducing bands and speaking between sets, and simply being present to assist with any concerns that may arise. 

Volunteers also pass a basket at the concerts for free-will donations to Shepherd Gallery and Creativity Center, the nonprofit that acts as Umbrella Arts’ parent organization. The spirit of giving thrived last year during the free concert series, when approximately $1000 was donated for the Creativity Center’s after school art program. Shepherd Gallery and Creativity Center has provided high quality after school art programming to children grades five and up for the past six years at no cost to families or schools. 

On designated nights of this year’s concert series, donations will also help fund a new scholarship granted to graduating Clayton Ridge seniors majoring in the arts. 

Guttenberg’s River of Music is offered every Friday, June 5 – Aug. 14, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. (except for the weekend of July 4, when Guttenberg Development and Tourism organizes entertainment in the park). In the event of rain, concerts are held on the third floor of the municipal building. Signs will be posted both in the park and at the city hall if the weather is threatening and the rain location is used. Organizers remind attendees that bugs may also attend the outdoor concerts, and sharing of insect repellant with neighbors is encouraged. 

Concert attendees are welcome to bring dinner, snacks and beverages along, provided all beverages are stored in plastic bottles or cans and trash is placed in nearby receptacles. Quiet, well-mannered pets are welcome at the concerts as long as they are on a leash, and owners observe animal-waste clean-up rules. Bags are provided in the park for this purpose. Restrooms are located just south of the bandshell next to the school playground.

In addition to weekly event sponsors, many other businesses and individuals have made contributions to Guttenberg’s River of Music. Emily Oliver Hughes and Performance Marketing of West Des Moines contributed graphic design services for logo and poster design; Autotek Graphics created banners and signs, The Guttenberg Press offers news coverage and printing, and the City of Guttenberg maintains the scenic park venue.  

River of Music, along with its organizers, sponsors, and supporters, are helping to make Guttenberg a place where the arts are valued and celebrated. Umbrella Arts volunteers meet for dinner monthly to promote and enhance existing arts programming and celebrate local artists. New members are invited to learn more the last Tuesday of every month, when volunteers meet for dinner and conversation from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.

The first River of Music concert will feature Triple Threat on Friday, June 5. See the full schedule of concerts in next week's issue of The Guttenberg Press or visit www.guttenbergcreativitycenter.com. 

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