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Music in the Park - A History

Music in the Park – A History
By Marge Coonen

Here we are back in to fall. Another season of “Music in the Park” is over. The weather was great, 19 groups performed and attendance for the summer was at 3,607 people.

Let’s take a look back and remember how it all began. In the late 1990’s, Rita Goose had this dream about a gazebo in Nagel Park. She felt strongly it would be good for the community. It was just a dream. But, what a dream! She talked about it to the Museum Board and with their approval, she began writing letters to people looking for support. Donations came in and memorial bricks, were sold. Families and organizations would purchase a brick and have their names imprinted on it. Overall, 475 bricks were sold.

It was in “Encore”, a booklet published to celebrate Wisconsin’s Sesquicentennial in 1998, that the plans for the gazebo were made public. Proceeds from the booklet, which reviewed Seymour history to 1998, were also donated to the fund. During Seymour’s Sesquicentennial Celebration on Saturday, September 5, 1998 the ground breaking ceremony took place at Nagel Park.

The building began with Schuh Construction pouring the concrete floor. Gary Schaumberg constructed the gazebo along with Northeastern Wisconsin Roofing. Randy Schneider did the electrical work. Pat Nagel donated the Gingerbread decorations. Roger Rohloff was in charge of laying the memorial bricks around the gazebo. Roy Porter, Bob Wilken and Bob Coonen constructed a walkway to the street out of pavers. In 2000, the gazebo was ready for a summer of Wednesday night concerts. However, where do we get the money to pay the bands because our funds were limited?

All we really could afford was $50.00. What band would accept that? In our discussions, someone suggested that we ask the bands to do their rehearsing in the gazebo and we would pay them. It would be a win-win situation: Music for us, good advertising for them.

Rita talked to ten businesses in Seymour and asked if they would like to be a sponsor for the concerts. The fee was $100 for an entire summer of advertising on Wednesday nights. Another win-win situation.

Janice Eick volunteered to make the popcorn in the old theatre popcorn machine. Lois Dalke and Marge Coonen operated the concession stand out of the side porch of the museum. The Seymour Girl Scouts sold popcorn and pop by carrying it in totes to the audience. At one time, we even sold ice cream.

On Monday, May 15, 2000, the Gazebo was dedicated with the Allouez Village Band performing the first concert. Approximately 200 people attended. The weather was excellent. Soda, donated by Mel Kuske, and popcorn were free.

We had six concerts that first summer. We were thrilled when we had 50 people attending. What was started was a marvelous fundraiser for the museum, and in the beginning; we did not even know it. It did not even feel like work. We were all just having fun bringing Music to Nagel Park.

The spring of 2001, brought the horrible news that our walk of memorial bricks did not stand up during the winter. The snow was freezing and then melting, and then refreezing, that had played havoc with the bricks. Rather than lay the bricks in the ground again, it was decided to make a memorial wall with the work done by Glen Linsmeyer. After the bricks were removed, Pat Seidl planted day lilies to add greenery to the site.

The next year, Luann James took over from Rita to line up the bands for their summer practices. The crowds were growing - attendance was up to at least 75 people. Don’s Market listed our concert every week in the store ad. In the beginning, we would actually do a head count at each concert to keep track of the attendance. In 2004, Lynn and John Koenigs, who had been playing for us each summer with their KNX Band, took over lining up the bands. John thought it would be a good idea that we would give away a door prize at each concert. Rita asked merchants for door prizes. We gave out free raffle tickets, (goodbye head count,) and used the raffle ticket numbers to determine the attendance. We would give away a can of beans, an ice cream cone, or a car wash to the lucky winner.

Depot St. was under repair in 2004. That summer the concerts were moved to the Lake Park and if we had rain we moved inside to Wally’s Bowling Alley. The concertgoers felt that the Lake Park was Seymour “Hidden Treasure.” With all the trees, one felt like they were sitting in a great cathedral, listening to music.

In 2005, we returned to Nagel Park and began the 50/50 Raffle, with the proceeds going to the building’s new addition. At that time, the concession stand was moved to a picnic table by the gazebo. Lynn Koenigs became a member of the concession crew. Popcorn was 25 cents and soda was 50 cents a can.

As more businesses volunteered prizes, we moved up from a can of beans to four cans; to Christmas wreaths, strawberries and vegetables from area gardens. Everyone had a marvelous time. In 2006, the total attendance for the summer was 2,428 people. Last year, 2007, we had 2,694 as the total attendance. We purchased a rolling cooler, added more sponsors, and provided a greater variety of music. Tom Nelson, Ollie Lerum, and others added appropriate humor to the evenings.

This year, Lynn and John Koenigs lined up the bands. People were calling them to see if they could participate in the concerts. Some nights, we had two bands instead of one. Nineteen groups in all entertained. Gary Melchert donated a cooler, so the concession stand became a self-service stop, and with the help of the “Elders” selling to those in cars, we had another successful year. Dan Beilfuss, along with Eric Chmelka sold 50/50 raffle tickets.

Mike Keyzers and John Koenig, with the help of the “Elders”, gave out the door prizes. Total attendance for the summer of 2008 was 3,607, averaging about 241 people per concert. The free corn roast in August was very popular. The weather all summer was excellent and just one concert had to be moved to Wally’s because of rain.

Thanks to Rita, for a wonderful dream that she would not let rest until it became the Wednesday Night Social event for our community.

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