Music series attempts to make a difference

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, August 6, 2014
“Betty's calling… Betty's calling for you!”

With the boisterous ballad of Betty Calling's single bounced around Ron-de-Voo Park on Friday, Aug. 1, the second week of the annual Music in the Park series was underway.

Put together by the West Liberty Area Arts Council (WLAAC), the series brings in artists from West Liberty and the surrounding community for a night of music.

"Early on we wanted to create programming throughout the year, we wanted to have seasonal programming," said WLAAC President Cara McFerren. "They had just renovated Ron-de-Voo Park and it was a great venue to offer something."

It almost seems like the two were made for each other. The cozy little park on Third Street holds a stage and seating. Every year the free music series takes over the park for four consecutive Fridays.

WLAAC began hosting the event more than five years ago. The group aims to spread creativity and art throughout West Liberty. It has no ulterior motive, just a calling to provide art.

"I want the arts council to be a change agent for this community and affect the local economy through stimulation, or be a community resource," said McFerren.

She sees Music in the Park as one of those driving forces. Not only does it entertain, but it gives people a reason to come to town.

"Art could possibly be a deal maker for individuals coming to this community," she added. "Whether they're going to live here or they want to visit, because art offers entertainments, socializing and aesthetics."

For a second year Betty Calling performed in the series, with lead guitarist Christian Elliott hailing from the community. The rock group specializes in music from the 1960s to present day.

Gusto Norteno will be performing this Friday, Aug. 8, at 6:30 in the same location. As West Liberty's premier Latin ensemble, the group has been a part of the series since its beginning.

Music in the Park attempts to cover all sorts of music of all sorts of genres. From large rock and roll bands to small bluegrass duos, each week is different.

"One year we brought in Koplant No, they played at the Iowa City Arts fest," said McFerren. "That month they were the featured artist on KCCK for their jazz."

Another highlight was the combo of Eugenio Solis and Aldaberto Solis, both living in West Liberty at the time. The two have represented Iowa at the Smithsonian Folk Fest in Washington D.C.

This year Music in the Park was made possible by Liberty Communications, WL Chamber of Commerce, Fred's Feed, WL Foods, Rotary Club and several other contributors.

However, Music in the Park presents a personal challenge for McFerren. Betty Calling brought in a phenomenal crowd Friday, around 40-50 attended throughout the evening.

On the other hand, Dave Moore's kick off performance for the 2014 series only brought in around 10 to 20 from West Liberty. Attendance can vary as much as the music.

"It's a battle," admits McFerren. "I don't have eight hours a day of my time, with no compensation, to devote to it, otherwise I think we would have a stellar arts community."

Everything put together by WLAAC is on a voluntary basis. McFerren has put in tons of hours to the series to make it possible.

Yet, as the music begins flowing through the park every Friday, several passing by stop for a moment and look in, curious about what’s going on. Then they walk on, almost afraid to enter.

She wants everyone to know that they’re more than welcome to come in, because the music is calling for you.

Gusto Norteno will take the stage Friday, Aug. 8, while Gary and Guy will be performing on Aug. 15. Music begins at 6:30 p.m.
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