EagleHerald staff writer
MARINETTE—After one season in melodic deprivation affected by the world’s efforts to thwart the viral proliferation during the 2020 pandemic, the popular community concert series, Concerts in the Park returns to the cities of Marinette and Menominee.
For years, the concerts offered area residents an outdoor venue for local music entertainment through the summer months at both the Great Lakes Memorial Marina Park Bandshell in Menominee and the Chamber of Commerce Performance Stage on Stephenson Island in Marinette.
Coordinated by the Marinette Menominee Area Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Jack’s Fresh Market and several other local businesses, the concerts return this summer after last year’s hiatus due to COVID-19.
“What is exciting about it this year is the fact that we can (actually) do it,” said Chamber Executive Director and CEO Jacqueline Boudreau. “Last year we could not because of the COVID situation.”
Various restrictions implemented by the State of Wisconsin on the size of outdoor gathering put the kibosh on many traditional summer events in 2020 such as Concerts in the Park, the Marinette Logging and Heritage Festival and the Menominee Waterfront Festival. For instance, as COVID-related deaths in Wisconsin surpassed 2,300 in November, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers issued Executive Order No. 94, which recommended that “all individuals should stay home as much as possible and only make trips when necessary, such as to go to work, pick up groceries, or refill prescriptions.” Various other executive and emergency orders emerged during that time that implemented such mandates as required face masks in public areas and limited the size of gatherings both indoors and out. In addition to canceling community events and the restriction also shut down many social gathering places like bars and restaurants.
This year, with the recent easing of COVID prevention protocol across the state, and with cautious optimism, chamber officials plan to move forward with a total of seven concerts, three in Menominee and four in Marinette.
“Coming out of COVID we have been cautious as far as what we are planning and what we can move ahead with,” Boudreau said. “Our board was confident that we would be OK with the concerts. Because they are outside, we would be able to social distance and follow (both Wisconsin and Michigan) state mandates ... We wanted to give it a real community feel. It’s a way of supporting our local talent and a way of having people gather together again, as a community.”
According to the State of Michigan Coronavirus homepage (Michigan.gov/coronavirous/), beginning June 1 all “broad epidemic orders” were lifted. The state no longer places capacity limits on outdoor activities and residential gatherings. Some indoor restrictions related to capacity limits and face masks remain in place.
In March the Wisconsin Supreme Court ended the state’s mask mandate. When it comes to large gatherings, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services defers to the guidance offered by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
When it comes to those who have received a full dosage of COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC states that “people can resume activities (that you did prior to the pandemic) without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”
The concerts include both local and regional talent and run from June through the latter half of August with performances on Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m. The first concert at Stephenson Island occurs June 17 followed by June 24 with the first performance at the Menominee bandshell. The complete schedule can be found on the Marinette Menominee Area Chamber of Commerce Facebook page (also see CONCERT DETAILS).
According to Boudreau, a major source of support for this year’s concerts originated with members of the community during a point of purchase “round-up” at Jack’s Fresh Market that occurred in 2019. Initially, those donations raised $4,000 which was slated for the sponsorship of the 2020 series. However, because the concerts were canceled in 2020, the funds carried over to this year.
For Boudreau, and others involved in organizing the performance series, it offers a way to simultaneously give back to the community, support area businesses and promote local talent.
“It’s about how do we get people to frequent area businesses when they are out,” she said. “Do you have a sandwich and grab a drink at one of the local establishments … because you are coming to the concert.”