By Rachel Dunphy
On Wednesday, July 11, the Shelburne Parks and Recreation Department officially kicked off its 17th annual summer concert series at Shelburne Farms with a performance by Danny Quinn, an Irish and American folk singer from Connecticut.
For the series kick off, the event was extremely well attended. While the first concert traditionally garners about 30 or 50 people, according to Director of Parks and Recreation Betsy Cieplicki, this year’s easily produced several hundred. The Shelburne Farms staff which has their own food stand at the concerts for the first time this year, ran out of two of their four menu items before the show even began. There were parents and children all over the green, picnicking and dancing and genuinely enjoying each other’s company.
“It just seemed like a good family opportunity,” said Marta Koonz, the former Parks Department director, of why she put together the first series in 1995. Koonz is retired now and lives in Connecticut, but she made the trip up with Quinn, an old friend, to attend the event once more.
Originally, as some might remember, the August fireworks were not a component of the event. It was after the program had run a few years that the Fire Department had to stop putting on Independence Day fireworks at Shelburne Museum (for insurance reasons, according to Koonz), and the Park and Rec Department incorporated the display, now handled by North Star into their Shelburne Farms festivities.
The first year of the change, the fireworks were scheduled for July 4 but were rained out. The event was postponed until August, whereupon the department discovered that families preferred the late summer timing because the shorter days meant they didn’t have to keep their kids up as late waiting for the show.
Since those early days the program has continued to thrive, but it wouldn’t be possible without the support of many members of the community. All of the concert expenses are covered by the event sponsor, AlMartin Volvo, except for the fireworks, which are paid for by Automaster, Associates in Orthodontics, Rice Lumber, Precourt Investment Co., and the Shelburne Supermarket, and supplemented by donations from families attending the concerts. The Park and Rec Department, all of whom are volunteers minus Cieplicki, line up the performers and organize and advertise the concerts. Shelburne Farms handles equipment set up and parking, and there are staff members on duty to help kids handle the animals, among other things.
The series attracts a diverse crowd, and that seems to be a large part of why people enjoy it so much. “It’s nice to see so many different people in the community come together,” said Cieplicki. With any luck, the annual Shelburne summer concert series will continue to bring the town together for a long time to come.