What has quickly become a Norfolk tradition returned Thursday evening to Skyview Park.
Music in the Park, a free outdoor concert series sponsored by the Norfolk Rotary Club, debuted Thursday evening for 2105 under sunny skies that matched the mood of the concert-goers.
Competing against the Great American Comedy Festival and several area town festivals, hundreds of people still turned out on the east side of the lake for the performance by Soul Dawg.
They sat in lawn chairs, sipping everything from cold beer to sweet tea while enjoying the sweet music.
Brian Smith of Carroll was among those enjoying the seven-piece group from Lincoln.
Soul Dawg performed a variety of funk and rock, popular with those over 40 who appeared to make up the majority of the crowd.
Smith said he attended all four of the free concerts last year.
“I like blues, but this is all right. I listen to everything,” he said, noting that some of his favorite artists include B.B. King, Blues Travelers and Eric Clapton.
Smith said he enjoys coming to Norfolk for the outdoor concerts as they add to the summer entertainment offerings.
Stan Christensen, past president of the Rotary Club, said he couldn’t have been more pleased with how the weather turned out given how cool and wet it was Thursday morning.
“This is perfect,” he said. “It is God’s blessing that we got this nice today.”
Christensen said Music in the Park has grown each year since it began. This is the fourth year, with concerts generally lasting from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
While there is no admission charge, donations are taken. Many corporate sponsors also contribute or offer in-kind support.
“We get a lot of the bands come to us now,” Christensen said. “They play in Omaha and Lincoln and they might be just another band. They come here and they are like rock stars playing in front of 2,000 to 3,000 people sometimes. I think they enjoy it.”
The idea for the outdoor concerts was borrowed from Omaha, he said.
“Omaha will have something like this just about every night during the summer,” Christensen said. “I wanted something like this in Norfolk. It’s a quality-of-life thing.”
While alcohol usually is prohibited in Norfolk parks, people are allowed to bring wine and beer for the concerts.
Christensen said there never has been any problems.
“People are good,” he said. “They clean up after themselves. Everyone has been very responsible.”
Aaron Otten of Norfolk said he has enjoyed Music in the Park since it began.
“It is something the community needed,” he said. “We talk about quality of life and things we need to attract a quality work force. It is stuff like this that helps support Norfolk and makes Norfolk a great community to live in.”
Otten is vice president of Elkhorn Valley Bank, which is one of the corporate sponsors for the series.
Other bands and the dates they are scheduled to perform are High Heel with Lisa Larsen on July 2, Blue House on July 16, and The Confidentials on Aug. 6.