Judging by the upbeat atmosphere at Esquimalt’s Memorial Park on Tuesday night, quoting the lyrics of a classic Trooper song seems appropriate.
Nearly 300 music lovers of all ages were there “for a good time, not a long time” from 6 to 7:30 p.m. They didn’t seem to mind that “the sun can’t shine every day … and [that] every now and then it’s gonna rain.”
The enthusiastic crowd also surely appreciated that it didn’t start to sprinkle until the Memoral Park Music Fest event was over.
“Thank you, weatherman!” exclaimed Jon Goody, the British lead singer for Bobby Dazzler after the seven-piece dance band had finished entertaining the outdoor concert-goers with a rousing repertoire of covers including We Will Rock You, I Love Rock and Roll, Billie Jean and I Will Survive.
“We’re here to get people dancing,” said the dynamic bandleader who once sang in London bars, restaurants and nightclubs for a living.
And dance they did. Egged on by young “audience participation” volunteers wearing red hooded sweatshirts, the crowd came to life on the makeshift grassy dance floor.
“The music just gets better and better every time I come,” said Donna Wildeman, a regular at the Township Community Arts Council’s Tuesday night summer events.
“I came to Esquimalt 30 years ago and haven’t left,” said the middle-aged esthetician from Moncton, N.B. “The community spirit is just amazing.”
Jennifer Kelly, who teaches music at Rockheights Middle School, is one of three local educators in Bobby Dazzler, which takes its name from the English term for something considered remarkable.
“We’re all like-minded and most of us have children,” said the vocalist and trumpeter whose husband John is the band’s drummer. “We just like to have a good time together.”
Morlene Tomlinson, the council’s irrepressible president, said she and her volunteer colleagues, identifiable by their deep purple T-shirts, were grateful to have so much help achieving this objective.
“We strive to bring music to Esquimalt Tuesday night that appeals to a broad crowd,” said Tomlinson, surrounded by girls blowing bubbles, teenagers walking dogs and seniors in deck chairs.
“When we started two years ago, we had nothing. None of us had experience with event management. We’re grassroots,” she said, crediting community volunteers and sponsors.
Mathieu Lott, owner-operator of La Belle Patate, the popular parkside Esquimalt road eatery, was one of the first to step up the plate, she recalled.
“I love this park,” said Lott. “It’s dedicated to our [First and Second World War] veterans, and I’ve been graced to be able to look at this park for the past nine seasons.”
Andrew Heaman, manager of TD Canada Trust’s Vic West branch, also eagerly got on board as a sponsor, one of many.
“We saw what a fantastic community event this was,” said the E-Towner as he handed out cups of water.
This summer’s series has also featured the Soul Shakers, Esquimalt High School Jazz and R&B bands, and the Naden Band.
Still to come are the Deb Thomson Band (July 12), Virtual Elvis (July 19) and Bijou du Bayou (July 26).
One of the event’s most enthusiastic cheerleaders is Gwen Thompson, the classical violinist, music educator and Order of Canada recipient who founded the Township Classics concert series at the English Inn.
“I think we’ve made a tremendous impact. It gives us all such a thrill to be part of this community,” said Thompson, who also sits on the board of the not-for-profit society that promotes the community’s artistic endeavours.
Thompson was instrumental in raising funds for music education programs in local schools, including a youth mentorship program.
Other arts-council initiatives include the annual Esquimalt Arts Festival at English Inn (Aug. 14), and Sculpture Splash, its annual outdoor exhibition and sale of world-class sculpture at Macauley Point Park, which will be held Sept. 17-18.