Columns & Blogs

Behind the Scenes: Bands and musicians sought for Elizabeth Park concert series

Marla Bronstein says she’s ready to start recruiting and scheduling music for this year’s Elizabeth Park Summer Concert Series. Always one for enthusiasm for the concerts (since she lives across from the Columbia neighborhood park), she’s again excited to continue to build on the community aspect of the series.

Bronstein might not know that she’s continuing a longtime Bellingham tradition.

According to the Eldridge Society, which co-hosts the concerts with Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department, Bellingham’s first official park was created in 1884 on land donated by Captain Henry Roeder. The park was known as Walnut Street Park until it was later named Elizabeth Park, in honor of Roeder’s wife, Mary Elizabeth.

The New Whatcom Ladies Cooperative Society was instrumental in developing the park. Funds were raised and a bandstand was built. The development of Walnut Street Park was finally completed in 1905 under the guidance of Park Commissioner Roland G. Gamwell.

Parks researcher Aaron Joy says that on Sept.11, 1901, in Walnut Street Park, “the Adams Military Band had the pleasure of presenting the first band concert held to raise money for the painting of the newly completed bandstand.”

At the concert, Mayor Bacon remarked that “this was a unique occasion in the history of the town, as it was the first actual donation to the city, and upon ground donated to the city.”

Bronstein will be scheduling bands in the next few weeks, so she encourages musicians to give her a couple of Thursday dates they are available between June 25 and Aug. 27.

She needs a current press packet with a music samples. Unless the press packet has been recently updated, check with Bronstein if you have sent her one in the past two years.

Bronstein likes to hear bands in person, so if bands have gigs scheduled locally, let her known so she can give a listen. She’s interested in current social media links for bands as well.

Here are some guidelines for concerts at the park before you go to the trouble of sending your info to her:

• You need your own sound equipment and sound op. Sound needs to reach at least the part of the park where the food vendors usually park.

• Set-up starts at 4 p.m.; play time is 6 to 8 p.m.. Please respect the park staff and return borrowed items by 8:30 p.m.

• The series is funded by donations to the Eldridge Society, and there is a stipend of $300 per Thursday performance. Parks and Rec provides power, a staff person, and trash, recycling and compost bins. Hand trucks and wheelbarrows are available to use to load and unload gear.

• There will be two parking spots reserved for the band on Washington Street, near the loading ramp.

Also, the group that encourages the audience to donate the most money to the concert series the evening they perform will have an automatic “in” for summer 2016 (bandZandt was the winner last summer).

Email Bronstein at for more details.

Teens encouraged to write poems for ‘A Forest of Words’

The Whatcom County Library System invites sixth- through 12th-graders to submit their original poetry for the 2015 edition of the countywide teen poetry anthology, “A Forest of Words.”

In the annual anthology, teens explore themes from their own lives, including humor, longing, race and loss. Accepted poems will be published in a book and each poet will receive a copy. The books are also available for checkout from any public library.

The anthology parallels Whatcomics, the annual book of teen art published each fall. “A Forest of Words” is illustrated with teen art from the previous edition of Whatcomics.

“Involving teens not only as readers and consumers of media but as creators of books and art is really exciting,” said WCLS teen coordinator Tamar Clarke. “To be a published poet at such a young age really inspires teens to continue to create, invent and engage in the larger world.”

Teens can submit poems online at or at any local public library. Poems are due Feb. 14. For details, call Clarke at 360-305-3600.

Send a sonnet to your sweetie

Looking for a unique Valentine’s gift for your special someone? A Shakespeare Northwest actor will deliver one of Shakespeare’s sonnets of love live and dressed in traditional Elizabethan costume — and leave your sweetie with a rose and a framed copy of the sonnet.

A Sonnet-Gram can be delivered to a place of work, restaurant or elsewhere in Skagit County and Bellingham from noon to 6 p.m. Feb. 13 or 1 to 8 p.m. Feb. 14.

Orders must be placed by Feb. 12. For prices and scheduling, email, call 206-317-3023 or go to

Memorial for musician Ray Downey set for Saturday, Feb. 7

A memorial concert and celebration of the life of Raymond J. Downey will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7, at Broadway Hall, 1300 Broadway.

Downey, who died of esophageal cancer in December, was a dedicated music teacher and an award-winning composer who played professionally in backup orchestras for famous performers and as well as in numerous local groups, including Eddie and the Atlantics, The Saltwater Octet, and Saxquatch Saxophone Quartet. He also was principal clarinetist with the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra from 1989 to 2011.

Downey taught numerous children and adults in his music studio for 32 years. Musicians who learned and performed with Ray are encouraged to attend and play a tribute piece in his honor.

Recap of ‘Boys in the Boat’ events

If you haven’t read Daniel James Brown’s “Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics,” you have less than a month before Brown comes to Whatcom County to speak at Whatcom Reads! events. Even if you don’t row or know much about the 1936 Olympics, you’ll be captivated by the tenacity of the members and coaches of the University of Washington crew on their path to glory.

The book is available to borrow at any Whatcom County Library or for purchase at Village Books, Allied Arts of Whatcom County and other book outlets.

Here’s a list of upcoming free, public event. For more details, go to

Enjoy a discussion of “Boys in the Boat” at these locations:

4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5 Western Washington University, Academic Instruction West, room 204, 360-650-3225; and 7 p.m. at Village Books. 200 11th St., 360-671-2626. Panelists Kevin Leonard, Sheila Webb and Cornelius Partsch explore the relationships among politics, sports and popular culture in the U.S. and the Third Reich. Adolf Hitler hoped to use the 1936 Olympics in Berlin to convince the world of the superiority of the “Aryan” race. The success of some U.S. athletes, most notably sprinter Jesse Owens and the UW crew, challenged Hitler’s narrative.

2 p.m. Saturday, Feb., 7, Lynden Library, 216 Fourth St., 360-305-3600. Workshop participants in “The Art of Storytelling” learn how to find, develop and tell stories from an experienced storyteller and folklorist.

4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8, Village Books. Winning authors read their entries in the Whatcom WRITES! contest on the topic of “competition.” Top submissions are published in an anthology available for purchase.

2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10, Ferndale Library, 2125 Main St., 360-305-3600.

1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11, Village Books.

6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11, Blaine Library, 610 Third St., 360-305-3600, and 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18, Fairhaven Branch Library, 1117 12th St., 360-778-7188. Learn about outrigger canoeing and how it compares to eight-oar crew rowing with Bellingham Bay Outrigger Paddlers Jackie Caplan-Auerbach and Sue Debari.

6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12, Bellingham Public Library, 210 Central Ave, 360-778-7323; and 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13, Everson Library, 104 Kirsch Drive, 360-305-3600. Judy Rantz Willman, daughter of Olympian rower Joe Rantz, discusses the genesis of “The Boys in the Boat,” tells stories about her father and her family, and reflects on why the book is impacting readers across the country.

• Daniel James Brown will make several appearances, where copies will be on sale and he will sign books as time permits:

3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24, Heiner Theater, Whatcom Community College. Brown discusses the art and craft of writing. High school and college writing students especially encouraged to attend. Free; no tickets necessary.

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24, Jansen Art Center, 321 Front St., Lynden 360-354-3600; and 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25, Mount Baker Theatre; and 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25, Fairhaven Branch Library, 1117 12th St. Brown discusses his book. Free; no tickets necessary.

9:15 a.m., Feb. 26, Mount Baker High School auditorium, 5100 Mitchell Road, Deming, 360-383-2015. Brown visits Mount Baker High students. Gordy Adams, one of the UW rowers, was a Mount Baker High graduate.

6:30 p.m. Monday, March 9, Whatcom Middle School, 810 Halleck St., Bellingham, 360-676-6460. Eugene Yelchin talks about his 2012 Newbery Honor Book, “Breaking Stalin’s Nose and Arcady’s Goal.”