Music again fills the air at Ventura Park

Who says there are no cultural events in outer East Portland?  Read this, and find out how neighbors and businesses in the Hazelwood Neighborhood area worked together to bring a pair of live concerts back again this summer …

Taking the stage at the Ventura Park Concert Series on August 26, “Po’ Girl” members Benny Sidelinger, Awna Teixeira, Allison Russell, and JJ Jones perform their own style of urban folk music.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For two days in late August, Ventura Park – bordering SE Stark Street, between SE 113th and SE 117th Avenues – turned into a concert venue for the second year in a row.

One of the organizers, Arlene Kimura, who also chairs the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association, explained why they brought back the park concerts. “We were just blown away by the attendance last year — we had as many 600 people at the concerts.”

Together, with Linda Robinson, Arlene Kimura says their committee scrambled to arrange the Ventura Park concerts this year.

So Kimura, working with East Portland parks booster Linda Robinson, revitalized the Ventura Park Concerts Committee, and set out to stage another two-concert series this year. “We were not as prepared and organized as we could have been. But, we scrambled and managed to get it done.”

Local sponsors help fund concerts
Although Portland Parks & Recreation picks up some of the cost for outdoor summer concerts, neighborhood committees are required to find sponsors to help defray the rest of the costs.

Owner of Classique Floors Judith Huck says her company sponsors the concerts as a way of promoting a sense of community in the neighborhood.

One of the first sponsors to sign up, Judith Huck, owner of Classique Floors (“The best little floor store in town”, located further east on SE Stark Street) also sponsored the series last year. “There aren’t very many opportunities in outer East Portland for the community to gather for a family-friendly free event,” Huck told us. “This sounded like a great idea last year, and it turned out to be very well-attended.”

In addition to being a business owner, Huck reminded us, “I grew up here, and still live here. Events like this are important; they help give us a sense of community.”

Allisun Croxell, Hannah Clegg, and Stephanie Hastings (who is with Ventura Park Adventist Health Clinic), together ice down the water they give to concert-goers.

Staff members from another sponsor, Ventura Park Adventist Health Clinic, located across the street from the park, set up an informational booth at the concert. “We’re here to give out dominoes and cold water,” said Adventist Health’s Hannah Clegg. “We became a sponsor to help support the community; our clinic is right across the street.”

Brings neighborhoods together
Kristen Knapp, the Citywide coordinator of outdoor summer concerts for Portland Parks and Recreation, applauded the efforts of the committee. “For the second year, they’ve done a good job.”

In addition to bringing together outer East Portland folks, this concert series has caught the attention of other neighborhood leaders. “Hazlewood is the group that’s primarily hosting this series. But, other neighborhoods have expressed an interest in working together with us to produce concerts in the future.”

Gateway Area Business Association “Keystone Kops” Brad Sanchez (from Realty Brokers) and Carl Stein (from Evergreen Ohana Mortgage) don’t provide security services at the concert – but they do give great comic relief.

Already planning 2010 concerts
“We’re firmly committed to having free concerts in our parks,” said Kimura. “In September, we’ll see if we can get together with other outer East Portland neighborhoods, as a joint effort.”

Noting that most East Portland parks are unimproved, Kimura pointed out another benefit to holding concerts: “Events like these are a good way to introduce neighbors to their parks. By coming here, they might want to join us, and help us lobby for park improvements.”

Shown are some of the hundreds of neighbors who came to enjoy an evening of music at Ventura Park.

As the band finished setting up, Oregon State Representative Jefferson Smith took the stage to welcome the audience members taking their places on blankets and in lawn chairs.

“It’s so great to see you all here,” Smith said. “I live eight blocks away; and I’m glad to see you’ve come out to support this concert series and enjoy the music.” With that, he introduced the band “Po’ Girl”, and music filled the park.

Sponsors of the event were Classique Floors, Hazelwood Neighborhood Assn, REX Heating & Cooling, Adventist Health Medical Clinic/Ventura Park, American Sani-Can, Columbia State Bank, Cooley Partners, Commissioner Amanda Fritz, Ted Gilbert, Mt Hood Community College, Ventura Park Music Lovers, the Oregon Cultural Trust, and the Multnomah County Cultural Coalition.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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