Summer Nights open air concerts returning to Lake Cowichan

Summer is officially here, which means Summer Nights, Lake Cowichan’s free open air concert series, is back, too.

Summer is officially here, which means Summer Nights, Lake Cowichan’s free open air concert series, is back, too.

The event, held at Central Park every second week from July 9 until the beginning of September, is in its fifth year and all donations collected this year will go towards Radio Cowichan, the driving force behind the event.

Station director Mike Bishop said in the past these donations were shared with other community groups, however, the station’s current financial situation necessitates increased fundraising efforts.

He said Summer Nights is important for the community because it’s a family-friendly event in an accessible location.

“It’s alcohol free for people to go and enjoy. The audience doesn’t have to pay anything to go. They have access to vending trucks. We’re going to try to build it up with some tables for artisans,” he said, adding that Gerard’s Specialty Foods will be on site selling strudels and Hummingbird Hill Hobby Farm will be there to sell its signature ice cream and other treats.

However, in addition to such treats, Bishop said what’s especially beneficial about having an event like Summer Nights is the opportunities it affords local musicians, especially young people.

“Starting at 6:30 to 7 [each night] we have an open stage for local entertainers who want to try out a new song or see what it sounds like to play in front of audience, well the gear is there they just come plug the guitar in or electronic pianos, anything like that. They hook into the sound system and give it a whirl,” said Bishop. “It’s a natural opportunity to have their talent displayed in public for free and it’s an encouragement to help them start out and carry on.”

He said participants are welcome to play any type of music they like so long as there are no swear words in the lyrics.

Singer/songwriter Mary Egan has taken on the role of music co-ordinator this year, which is something she did for several years as part of the Great Lake Walk.

Something new Egan is going to try this year: short intermission performances.

“We’re doing an open mic but I’m also getting some younger talent from around the Valley, just dancers and things for when the bands take a break, they’re going to get up and showcase what they do,” she said.

Egan, who teaches singing in Duncan, said some of her students would be getting involved.

“I have quite a few that are coming out to do the half-time thing. I have a little girl group called The Sprinkles. And then Isabelle Atchison, who played Annie, she’s coming out to play some of her stuff,” she said.

Other artists performing this summer include Jon Ryan, Beverley McKeen, The Rivernotes, Tim McGonigle’s band One Hit Away and Victor Wells.

“Victor Wells, he does a lot of Chicago blues. He’s originally from Chicago but plays with various bands in Victoria,” said Egan.

Egan herself will perform with her band at the end of the summer.

In the meantime, Egan asks that people interested in performing during the open mic sessions sign up just beforehand.

“It would be a lot easier than just rushing the stage,” she said. “Anyone who wants to be part of a half-time entertainment, they can contact me directly.”

Egan can be reached at marystylez@gmail.com.