‘Concerts in the Park’ season kicks off in East Portland

Here’s why you should get an early start, if you plan to visit this summer concert venue …

Most of the concert-goers pack picnic dinners and beverages (beer and wine is allowed at concerts), and the Mt. Tabor Park caldera quickly fills as the summer concert series begins for the season.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

It’s true: the Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) “Summer Free for All” Concerts in the Parks series doesn’t kick off in outer East Portland until August.

But, here’s a tip — volunteers do NOT check your ID for where you live, and don’t keep you out of other nearby concert venues – such as the series held in Mt. Tabor Park’s caldera.

This volcanic feature makes an ideal “concert bowl”, and the bands booked there bring in capacity crowds.

Before their first concert began, on the evening of July 7, vehicles were parked in every imaginable space up and down the narrow streets of Mt. Tabor Park, and into the surrounding neighborhoods.

Mt. Tabor Music Committee member Joe Salter spends a moment with Friends of Mt. Tabor Park organizer Dave Hillman.

“Yes, our all-volunteer committee makes a real effort to obtain sponsors, select the musical groups, and help out during the concerts,” smiled Mt. Tabor Music Committee member Joe Salter.

Above the caldera, vendors were selling food – ranging from sausages to exotic bowl creations – as well as ice cream. PP&R had a children’s activity area set up to help entertain the little ones.

On the way in, visitors were invited to purchase a slice of fresh “Bipartisan Café”, direct from the Montavilla bakery just down the hill – which donates 12 pies as a fundraiser for the Friends of Mount Tabor.

Enjoying a picnic dinner are Lara Jones, Cedie Geisler, and brother Bruno Geisler.

“What makes it worthwhile for me is that it’s a special time, that gets people out of the house,” Salter told East Portland News. “These concerts provide a cordial social environment.”

The music committee picks artists that will likely appeal to a large cross-section of people, Salter explained. “We try to mix it up with some Americana, some World Beat, some Hip-Hop, and even some jazz.”

With winters filled with wet and gloomy weather, the July Mt. Tabor Concerts in the Park series is an “invitation for neighbors see each other for the first time, possibly since last summer,” Salter said. “It is good for the neighborhood, in that it helps provide a sense of community.”

Creating art with chalk before the concert begins are Edith Cowan and Peter Cowan.

Friends of Mt. Tabor Park organizer Dave Hillman was on hand, along with a couple dozen bright-orange-vested volunteers.

“On Tuesday mornings, several of us head out, setting up about 120 ‘No Parking’ signs,” Hillman said. “Then, on Wednesday mornings, we take them all down.”

At concert time, the Friends’ volunteers serve as ambassadors and “parking monitors”, attend the handicapped-only parking lot, and help visitors get situated.

The crowd gathers as the Freak Mountain Ramblers take the stage.

“The most important thing we do is provide pedestrian safety,” Hillman observed. “Many people are walking up to the concert site.”

Hillman’s suggestion to those planning on attending these concerts: “It’s never too early to get up here. That’s my number one recommendation. If you arrive just before the concerts start at 6:30 p.m., you’ll have a good long hike!”

The Freak Mountain Ramblers play lively original tunes.

At concert time, the Freak Mountain Ramblers took the stage, ready to dish out their brand of “Home Brewed Mountain Rock ’n Roll” music. “We’re really local,” commented their lead singer. “We started at the LaurelThirst Public House in 1998!”

By the way, because the concert series has been so successful in this park, the Mt. Tabor Music Committee will also produce concerts in Berrydale Park, starting in August.

For all of the Concerts in the Park – and Movies in the Park – activities in and near outer East Portland throughout the mid-County area, see our Community Calendar: CLICK HERE.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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