Every summer since 2003, the bandshell at the Detroit Lakes City Park has been the setting for a three -month concert series known as Tuesdays in the Park.
Started by the late Dr. Bob "Doc" Watson 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.
"Last week (the concert series' 2018 debut), we had about 200 people here," said Amy Stearns, director of the Historic Holmes Theatre. "This week, it looks like there are a little over 200. It's a very good crowd."
Though the concerts do move inside the nearby Pavilion during rainy evenings, weather does have an effect on weekly attendance, she added.
Entertainment at the weekly concerts has ranged from popular local performers like Doc & the Scrubs, the Lakes Area Community Concert Band, Tim Eggebraaten and Hardwood Groove to newcomers like this Tuesday's featured performers, the Buffalo River Ramblers. Occasionally, they have even diverged into comedy, magic and live theater.
About five years after the concert series began, a new feature was added: In addition to the 7 p.m. concerts in the bandshell, the nearby picnic shelter became home to "Picnics in the Park," hosted by Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity every Tuesday night at 6 p.m.
"Roger (Lee) and I have been working on this for about 10 years now," says Bob Jernberg, the Habitat volunteer who, along with Lee, first came up with the idea of hosting the picnics as a fundraiser for the chapter.
"It's worked out really nice for this community," he added. "There are a lot of people who come out here every week for a nice, economical meal, and a chance to visit... the band concerts afterwards just add even more to it."
He added that the picnic/concert combo is a perfect "night out" for couples, and groups of friends. "It's a social event as well as a meal," he added.
On this particular Tuesday night, local Habitat President Steve Larson was manning the grill for an absent Jim Velde, who would be out of town until next week.
"I'll be filling in for Jim tonight, and again this Thursday night," Larson said, referring to a special "Thursday Night in the Park" event planned for June 14, when the Park Rapids Area Community Band will be performing after an additional Habitat picnic.
The Thursday night performance was added to the schedule, Stearns said, because the Park Rapids band, which has been a crowd favorite, wanted to perform again this year, but all of the Tuesday nights on the schedule were already booked.
Though not everyone who comes to the Tuesday concerts is able to show up early for the Habitat picnics, Hanson said that their 2018 debut on June 5 brought about 170 people, and as of about 6:20 p.m. this Tuesday, more than 100 people had already been served.
"That makes 90 hamburgers grilled," Hanson said, pointing to the half-dozen that he was finishing up before transferring them to a plate for serving. "And I think they've done about 80 hot dogs and brats already."
One group at this past Tuesday's picnic had come an unusually long way to enjoy the evening's festivities - from Worcester, Mass., by way of Pelican Rapids.
"We're with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Worcester (pronounced 'Woo-ster'), and we're all from central Massachusetts," said Barbara Grunell, one of the 10-member group.
The group traveled west from Massachusetts a week ago, she added, to help one of their former members with a project.
"P.J. Breen was our construction supervisor up until about a year ago, when he moved to Pelican Rapids with his wife and three children," she added. "A group of about 10 of us from Worcester volunteered to come here and help him build his own house."
Breen clarified that this was not a Habitat project, adding that they had come to help him "as friends."
Breen's wife, Karla, noted that they had moved back to Minnesota from Massachusetts in order to be closer to family. "I grew up in Pelican Rapids," she said.
Nevertheless, the Breens remain close friends with several of their former Habitat colleagues in Massachusetts.
"It's the Habitat community that brought this group together," she said.
Jim Holden, another member of the Massachusetts Habitat group, said that many of the group's members were retired contractors who had the necessary expertise to complete much of the work on the Breens' home.
"They even brought their own tools!" added Grunell.
"And we babysit too!" joked Steve Welus, another Massachusetts volunteer, as he held the youngest of the Breens' children in his lap.
"We're here to help out a friend," he added. "Habitat is a cause we all believe in... we're like one big family."
"I wouldn't have expected this of them, but on the other hand, I wouldn't expect anything less," said P.J. Breen when asked for his reaction to the group showing up to help his family on their building project.
"We're very humbled, and gratified," Karla Breen added. "We believe the work you do with love continues to give... and the friendships that you make through volunteering are some of the most special, and most meaningful that you will ever have."
"Our motto is, 'Habitat builds homes, community and hope," P.J. added.
"Their labor will be the story of our new home," said Karla.
Matheson noted that the Massachusetts group learned of the Tuesdays in the Park event through an announcement in a local church bulletin, and decided to show up to support the local chapter - including a generous donation for the night's meal.
Tuesdays in the Park, including both the concerts and the Habitat picnics, will continue through the end of August.
Tuesdays in the Park concert schedule
Thursday, June 14 (special night): Park Rapids Area Community Band
June 19: A Musical Night with Mr. Jack
June 26: Rhoda Habedank
July 3: The DeMasi Brothers
July 10: Doc & the Scrubs
July 17: Tim Eggebraaten
July 24: Eric Reitan
July 31: Jan Severson
Aug. 7: Ulen Centennial Band
Aug. 14: Doc & the Scrubs
Aug. 21: Bruce Neumann & Tiki D
Aug. 28: Lakes Area Community Concert Band