Summer concerts at Trolley Barn Park are a community tradition
By Christine Huard
With the sound of Mardi Gras in the air, the good times rolled as the annual Summer In the Park concert series kicked off at Trolley Barn Park in University Heights.
Cajun and zydeco rhythms played by Billy Lee and the Swamp Critters, at the first concert of the season on July 10, got the crowd up and in a dancing mood as a warm day turned into a cool evening at the historic Adams Avenue park. Down in front of the stage couples two-stepped and spun each other around as children twirled and hopped to the music.
Other concertgoers spread blankets on the grass or sat in comfy beach chairs while munching on easy picnic dinners, like summer salads made at home and pizzas delivered to the park by Pizza Gourmet Express. Mrs. Frostie sold ice cream cones a quickly as they could be dipped in chocolate or rolled in sprinkles. And yummy organic coffee drinks, like the Aloha Latte — a mocha, macadamia nut and coconut creation — were on the menu of the big, orange Joe’s On The Nose truck.
A crowd of about 450 gathered to enjoy the free entertainment, which has been put on for 13 years by the nonprofit University Heights Community Development Corp., in partnership with the San Diego Park and Recreation Department, the University Heights Park and Recreation Council, co-sponsors and individual donors. The family friendly event draws a diverse crowd, with everyone from young urban-hip couples and teens in hoodies to growing families and senior citizens.
It’s a neighborhood party that Kevin Westjohn, a University Heights resident for a decade, has been coming to for six or seven years, he said. He loves the camaraderie that brings together a group of about 20 friends and neighbors for the Friday night music series.
“We come and bring dinner, everyone brings their kids,” Westjohn said. “We bring our 85-year-old aunt. It’s a great outing for her.”
Christopher Milnes, executive director of the UHCDC, calls Summer In the Park “a big welcome” to those who live in University Heights and its adjoining neighborhoods. “It’s a great community friendly event that promotes University Heights and draws people from other communities as well,” Milnes said.
The event has changed since its early days, Milnes said.
“We used to have bagpipers and guys who sang sea shanties,” he said. “When we began, we had dancers and once we had a play.”
But as time went on the community asked for more music and when the community speaks, “We listen,” Milnes said.
Another change is how many concerts there are this summer. At one time, the series ran for eight weeks. But that was when the city provided the stage for free. These days, money for the stage, porta-potties and other services necessary to put on the shows comes from local co-sponsors and donors, as well as county Community Enhancement Program funds. Milnes said it takes about $14,000 to produce the music series. There are five performances this year.
Several participants, such as the Friends of the University Heights Library, Pemberley Realty and The Fellowship of San Diego, have tables set up each week. It a great opportunity for residents to get to know the businesses and people who make up the neighborhood.
“The atmosphere is great,” said David Powell, associate pastor of The Fellowship of San Diego, which was handing out free bottled water. “People are dancing, kids are having a good time. We’re just amazed with the turnout.”
Summer In the Park concerts start at 6 p.m. Fridays through Aug. 7 at Trolley Barn Park, located on Adams Avenue at Florida Street.
July 24: The Rhythm Jacks (Kansas City-style rhythm and blues, vintage rock and jazz)
July 31: The Midili Brothers Band (classic rock from the ‘50s to ‘80s)
Aug. 7: Sue Palmer and Her Motel Swing Orchestra (boogie woogie and swing)