Every summer since 2003, the bandshell at the Detroit Lakes City Park has been the setting for a three-month-long, weekly concert series known as Tuesdays in the Park.
Started by the late Dr. Bob "Doc" Watson - the original leader of the band Doc & the Scrubs - as a means of reviving interest in the historic bandshell structure, and hosted by the St. Mary's Regional Health Center (now Essentia Health St. Mary's) Foundation and Mary Otto Consulting, the series quickly became a seasonal tradition.
A couple of years into its run, coordination of the series was taken over by the Historic Holmes Theatre, which has hosted it ever since. The concerts have grown steadily in popularity - and when evening picnics were added to the mix in 2009, attendance grew even more.
"This year will be the 11th year that we have had picnics in the park - or in the Pavilion when it rains," says Bob Jernberg, who started the picnics along with fellow volunteers Roger Lee and Chuck Iversen.
The three men received a Thrivent Builds grant to construct a Habitat for Humanity home in the community - but one of the requirements was that a portion of the funds must be raised locally.
At that time, Thrivent Financial was primarily affiliated with the Lutheran church, so the men went to all the Lutheran churches in Becker County and asked for their help.
"Many of them held fundraisers for us," said Jernberg - and then Roger Lee's wife, Janet, proposed the idea of holding picnics in the City Park prior to the Tuesday night concerts at the bandshell, to help raise funds for the Habitat project.
"Over the years we have had the assistance of several churches and community groups, who provide 8 to 10 volunteers to help us each Tuesday night," said Jernberg.
Some of the groups that provided volunteer assistance in 2018 included Trinity Lutheran, Christian Fellowship, Holy Rosary, Lund Lutheran, Lakes Area Vineyard Church, United Methodist, Bakke Lutheran, Grace Lutheran, New Life, Assembly of God Shepherd of the Lakes, First Lutheran and Zion Lutheran churches; Sons of Norway, Catholic Daughters and the staff of Frazee Public Schools.
The 2019 picnics are being coordinated by Jernberg and Jim Velde; Roger Lee is stepping back this summer.
"Roger is planning to do more traveling and visiting family," said Jernberg. "We have appreciated his organizational skills and hard work since we began this fundraising effort."
Most of the volunteers have continued to come back year after year, Jernberg says. "They enjoy the fellowship, sense of accomplishment and fun as well as knowing they are assisting Habitat for Humanity in providing homes for those who are in need."
He added that volunteers who are also members of Thrivent Financial have used Thrivent Action Plans to assist in paying for the food that is served.
"That was another $1,500 toward our food last year," Jernberg said. "We also have had assistance from Central Market, the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center, Detroit Lakes Newspapers, KDLM and KRCQ radio stations, and Thrivent Financial. They all have been helpful in making Tuesdays in the Park a big success."
Last year's schedule included 13 Tuesdays, plus a couple of bonus concerts on Thursdays.
"We served 2,035 meals," Jernberg said. "Receiving donations and other receipts from recycling our aluminum cans, Thrivent Action teams and the sale of remaining food at the end of the year, our total receipts were $12,408.91."
After expenses of $2,715.29, the fundraiser saw a net profit of $9,693.62, with $500 of that being donated back to the Historic Holmes Theatre for its efforts in scheduling the music and marketing both the picnics and concerts. That left $9,193.62 to be donated to the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
"Including two Thrivent Build grants, assistance from church fundraisers and 10 years of picnics in the park, the total money raised for Habitat for Humanity since we started is approaching $250,000," Jernberg said.
In addition to assisting Habitat for Humanity and the Holmes Theatre, the picnics provide an opportunity for local residents to enjoy evening out each week of the summer, with food, music and fellowship.
"Many people come every week," Jernberg said, though the average of 136 people served each evening does dip a bit when they have to move the event indoors due to inclement weather.
Of course, a big part of the draw each week is also the music. Erik Dale, who serves as event and local productions manager for the Historic Holmes Theatre, says that he has scheduled a mix of both new and familiar musical performers this summer.
Newcomers include the Tribute Kings on June 18, the JV/CL Duo (Jessica Vines and Connor Lee) on July 9, and the Cropdusters on July 30.
"Jessica Vines and Connor Lee are really respected jazz musicians in Fargo," said Dale, adding that they have both released solo albums as well as performing with a variety of jazz ensembles in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
The Tribute Kings, meanwhile, are led by Steve Kelly - the same man who fronts the Cherry Cherry Band, which specializes in performing the music of Neil Diamond. Kelly visited Detroit Lakes last summer for a special July 4 concert at the bandshell, where he performed with local musician Mike Hokanson and his band.
"He has relatives in the area, so he wanted to come back," said Amy Stearns, the Holmes Theatre's executive director.
And while the Cropdusters are not new to local audiences, they will be making their Tuesdays in the Park debut this year, Dale said.
"They feature a rotating cast of local musicians with varying styles and influences," he added, noting that it is difficult to pin them with a specific genre of music.
Familiar faces will include the Lakes Area Community Concert Band, which as per Tuesdays in the Park tradition, will "bookend" this year's concert series, playing on both June 4 and Aug. 27.
Tuesdays in the Park regulars Doc & the Scrubs will also be playing two dates this year, on July 16 (during the Northwest Water Carnival) and Aug. 13. Other local favorites who will be returning include the Park Rapids Area Community Band (June 11) and Ulen Centennial Band (Aug. 6) along with solo performers Rhoda Habedank (June 25), Mark Fogelson (July 2), Tim Eggebraaten (July 23) and Jan Severson (Aug. 20).
The picnics, which feature a choice of freshly grilled hamburgers, brats or hot dots along with beans, potato salad and beverages, get underway at 5:45 p.m., with the concerts starting at 7 p.m. The suggested donation for the picnics is $5, and a free will offering will also be taken during the concert, to help support the musicians.
"Seating is limited, so please bring a lawn chair or a blanket to sit on," said Stearns, adding that the concert atmosphere is casual, with people coming and going throughout the evening.
Though they are only scheduled to play for an hour, some do choose to stay and perform a few extra songs, she said.
Tuesdays in the Park schedule
• June 4: Lakes Area Community Concert Band
• June 11: Park Rapids Area Community Band
• June 18: Tribute Kings
• June 25: Rhoda Habedank
• July 2: Mark Fogelson
• July 9: JV/CL Duo (Jessica Vines & Connor Lee)
• July 16: Doc & the Scrubs
• July 23: Tim Eggebraaten
• July 30: The Cropdusters
• Aug. 6: Ulen Centennial Band
• Aug. 13: Doc & the Scrubs
• Aug. 20: Jan Severson
• Aug. 27: Lakes Area Community Concert Band
Picnics start at 5:45 p.m., concerts at 7 p.m. If it rains, both the Habitat for Humanity picnic and the concert will be moved inside the Pavilion. For questions contact Bob Jernberg at 218-847-6626 (home) or 701-367-2934 (cell).