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This year the popular July Sellwood concerts moved from the riverside park to the one on the bluff

DAVID F. ASHTON - Before the first Concert in the Park on July 8, singer Naomi Sparrow, and Rob Stroups band Moody Little Sister, got together for a BEE photo - after greeting the audience on hand for their performance. After years of hosting the July "Concerts in the Park" at Sellwood Riverfront Park, its organizers – now a committee of the Sellwood Moreland Improvement League (SMILE) – decided to move the event "one park over".

This year, starting with the July 8 concert, families, couples, and singles set up their lawn chairs and picnics in the south end of Sellwood Park, which is the traditional venue for "Sundae in the Park" – itself coming up 12-6 p.m. on August 4.

Although the Concert Committee was concerned that neighbors might not find where the concerts had gone this year, the park did fill up with people before the live music began.

"The change in location came about for a couple of reasons," explained organizer Jim Friscia, as the first band of the July Monday series performed a "sound check".

"One reason is, for the last several summers, it's been hot and sunny down at Riverfront Park; and Sellwood Park is cool and shady," explained Friscia. "And, frankly, we had many parents concerned about their kids running around and playing in what is, the rest of the year, a 'dog park'. We listened, and now have shade, picnic tables, and a playground and the pool nearby."

Changes at Portland Parks & Recreation, which partners in these concerts, caused the concert planners to become a committee of SMILE, thus permitting funds raised to keep the concerts going to be tax-deductible, under SMILE's 501c3 nonprofit umbrella.

"It's our great local sponsors who make this happen," Friscia reflected. "We're so grateful for our thirty local sponsors this year – perhaps the most we've ever had for the concert series!"

Although it's been a while since the band played at this concert series, Friscia said the committee was enthusiastic to welcome back the band Moody Little Sister – a band that started in Portland, living in the Brooklyn neighborhood before moving out of state. "The four members of this all-string band provide tight harmonies, presenting unique songs with toe-tapping rhythms," Friscia observed.

The following Monday's concert featured the Rae Gordon Band – with the "Andean Chicha" sounds of Grupo Masato on July 22, and Rick Layton & Tough Town with "honky-tonk blues" music the last of this year's series on July 29.

The unpaid Concerts Committee continues its volunteer effort – headed by Friscia himself in many past years – as a labor of love, he said. "We're looking for new people to join us for next year's season, to help us bring neighbors, sponsors, and music together for this great community-building effort." He can be reached through SMILE – the phone number for which is 503/234-3570.


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