Since early this summer, the board of directors and volunteers at the Humane Society of the Lakes have been working furiously to find a way to hold the organization's biggest summer fundraising event, Shelter Fest, without running afoul of state-mandated pandemic restrictions.
First, the event was moved from its traditional home at the Hotel Shoreham to T.J.'s Bistro Bar & Grill; then, when it became clear that the state's latest social distancing guidelines would make it impossible to hold any portion of the event indoors, they began investigating the possibilities for an all-outdoor alternative.
"T.J.'s was going to be so fun, and we were so very, very excited (to hold the event there)," said the Humane Society's development coordinator, Shelby Rasmussen. "But unfortunately, they have limits for how many people they can have in their restaurant (due to pandemic restrictions), so we thought, 'What do we do?' We did not want to cancel this event, but, we also wanted to be on the super, super safe side. That's kind of how we all feel on the board, that it's better to be safe than sorry."
So after "putting our thinking caps on," she continued, they came up with the idea of holding something in conjunction with the Tuesdays in the Park concert series at the City Park Bandshell. When they approached Amy Stearns — director of the Historic Holmes Theatre, which hosts the outdoor concert series — with their idea, she was more than willing to collaborate with them.
"She welcomed us with open arms," Rasmussen said.
"We (the Holmes) had decided to add one more Tuesday in the Park concert to our schedule, since there is an extra Tuesday before Labor Day this year," said Stearns (the weekly concerts are normally held from June through August only). "Plus the weather has been great — knock on wood — and during this COVID-time, having music in the park has just been so uplifting and a fun, safe gathering for so many.
"I asked Tim Eggebraaten if he’d be willing to do another park performance and he was all in, so we booked it! Last week, Shelby reached out because they needed to move Shelter Fest and she was wondering about having it in conjunction with a park concert. The Sept. 1 date worked out, and so the collaboration came to be."
""We made a plan, and right now, things are looking great!" Rasmussen said. "We've had a lot of good feedback about this Tuesday night date working better for people than Sunday (the event was originally scheduled for Aug. 23)."
In addition, Eggebraaten was originally scheduled to be the featured entertainment for the Shelter Fest celebration, so it felt like their collaboration with the Holmes was "meant to be," she added.
Eggebraaten said he thought the collaboration was "a win-win" for both organizations.
"I'm happy to do anything to help out Shelter Fest and the Holmes Theatre, and to get more people involved, especially now," he added. "Since COVID-19 reared its ugly head ... it's been a challenging time for everybody."
Eggebraaten said he doesn't really have a set list planned for his 90-minute concert; rather, he likes to start out with a few crowd favorites, then take requests or just gauge the mood of his listeners to determine what the next song will be.
"I try not to make it too structured," he explained. "It's basically a 90-minute jam session."
Because it's the final Tuesday night concert of the summer, Eggebraaten added, he may even be inviting a few surprise guests to join him on stage for a song or two.
As always, the Sept. 1 concert will begin at 7 p.m., and is open to the public. But for the two hours prior to Eggebraaten's performance, the Humane Society will be hosting a silent auction, and there will be a special rock-painting activity for the kids as well.
"I wanted to do something fun for the kids, too," Rasmussen said. "I have a little guy at home, and he loves the rock painting right now."
As a special treat, the DL Ice Cream Truck will also be selling ice cream confections in the park throughout the festivities, she added.
In addition, volunteers will be showing off samples of the Humane Society's brand-new 2020 logo wear, which will be available for purchase at the HSL shelter as well as online. "We cannot sell things in the park," Rasmussen explained, "as we don't have a transient merchant's license."
Because they will not be selling food or charging admission, there is virtually no overhead for the event, Rasmussen said, so all proceeds from the festivities will go directly to benefit the shelter and its animals. Seating is limited, so please bring a chair or blanket to sit on for the concert, and observe social distancing protocols (masks are also encouraged, but not required for outdoor events).
For more information about the Humane Society of the Lakes, visit the website at humanesocietyofthelakes.org. For more information about Eggebraaten and his music, you can visit his website, Facebook page and YouTube channel.