Upper Arlington switches to drive-in format for Music in the Parks series

NATE ELLIS
nellis@thisweeknews.com
Honey and Blue is scheduled to perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, in the parking lot of National Church Residences, 2335 North Bank Drive, Upper Arlington.

The Upper Arlington Cultural Arts Division will offer its annual Music in the Parks series this summer -- but with an abbreviated schedule of all drive-in shows.

Before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic scuttled large gatherings, Upper Arlington arts manager Jodi Osborne had eight acts lined up to perform in Sunny 95 Park each Thursday night in June and July.

Then the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic hit and local officials were forced to scrap this year's series -- at least as originally planned.

Beginning with a July 23 performance by the Whirlybirds, the Cultural Arts Division revived a portion of this year's schedule, relocating the venue to the parking lot at National Church Residences, 2335 North Bank Drive, and converting the concerts into drive-in events.

In addition to the stage on which musicians perform, a screen is set up to aid viewing.

"We recognize that residents are craving fun and exciting things to do this summer during these really difficult times and we realized we were able to offer this event in a safe manner," Osborne said. "It is important for us to adapt to any situation and continue to bring great art and music to the community.

"Under the state's restrictions, Sunny 95 Park was not a viable location to facilitate proper social distancing," she said. "A drive-in concert was our only option to offer a safe event."

The change in venue and format allowed a summer tradition started by the Upper Arlington Cultural Arts Commission in 1984 to continue; it has been carried on by the Cultural Arts Division every year since 2011.

After the July 23 concert, a July 30 show featuring the Big Badd was rained out.

An Aug. 13 concert slated for 7 p.m. will feature Honey and Blue, fronted by singer-songwriters Stephanie Amber (vocals) and Adam Darling (vocals and guitar), and backed by Willie B (drums), David Swank (keyboards) and Aeneas Reynolds (bass).

"Attendees can either watch the concert from inside their vehicle or directly in front of their vehicle," Osborne said. "The parking spaces are allotted to provide more than six feet between groups."

Those planning to attend the concerts are required to register in advance, with the number of vehicles limited to about 71.

Attendees also are required to wear face coverings while walking to and from restrooms.

Osborne said registration for the Aug. 13 event was at capacity as of Aug. 6, but she encouraged those interested to check back the city's registration page at tinyurl.com/y4cl3v27 to see if any openings become available.

The concerts are free.

"The (National Church Residences') parking lot is located away from a main road and allows for around 71 parked cars for the event as well as overflow parking for the band, staff, etc.," Osborne said. "It is great to see the community come out, have a great time and support these bands that are so excited to perform for a crowd.

"It takes a bit of creativity to make these events possible. However, it gives us a new and fresh perspective on things and an opportunity to try something new."

As Amber was gearing to perform with Honey and Blue Aug. 13, she said her band and other musicians are grateful these days for any opportunity to play live music and connect with people.

She noted the Music in the Parks performance will be just the third live show her band has performed since mid-March.

"We hope it gives people the chance to hit pause on life and everything that's happening and just gives them the opportunity to share in the music," Amber said. "We feel like people, in general, are looking to the arts and are excited to have an exchange of energy."

She said the smaller crowds made her band's first two shows back on the concert circuit feel extremely intimate, and she expects more of the same Aug. 13. She said the audience can expect "a lot of enthusiasm and gratitude from us."

"These are such weird times and we just have ridiculous amounts of gratitude to have the opportunities to play," she said. "I think it's an important time to support musicians and the arts."

Looking forward, Osborne said the Cultural Arts Division hopes to reschedule the Big Badd to Aug. 20 and is looking for additional opportunities for live concerts.

"We are also exploring hosting another concert on Friday, Sept. 4, to kick off Labor Day weekend, as we were sad to have to cancel the Labor Day Arts Festival this year," she said. "We have been trying to reschedule the original bands.

"If we are unable to do that, they will be welcomed back for the 2021 Music in the Parks concert series."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate