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Free Summer Concert Series in Earlham City Park


Ahhhhh. Summer in the park on Sunday evening in small-town Iowa. Residents are sitting on lawn chairs or blankets, while listening to live music, and children are running around, playing with their friends. And it’s free.

Kate Williams and Connie Terry plan to duplicate that iconic scene this summer in their town of Earlham, just off I-80 west of Des Moines. Through their efforts, Earlham has received one of 18 grants to present the Levitt AMP Earlham Music Series from the Mortimer and Mimi Levitt Foundation of Los Angeles.

With a population of 1,400, Earlham is the smallest town in the country to receive one of this year’s grants. Among other small towns are Soldotna, Alaska, and Whitesburg, Kentucky. Mid-sized cities include Carson City, Nevada, and Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Large cities include Chattanooga, Tennessee; Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Trenton, New Jersey.

Williams and Terry explain that the goal of the Levitt grants is to transform public spaces into thriving community destinations. Grants also help to show the power of free, live music in communities. The grants are for $25,000 in matching funds for 10 free outdoor concerts over 10 to 12 consecutive weeks this year. Other sponsors include Earlham Chicks With Checks, the City of Earlham, and Earlham School District, plus numerous other corporate and individual donors.

The genesis of the program, Terry explains, came from a group named Chicks With Checks. “We started with 24 women who raised money for various causes. Women give $100 quarterly. We can give to families or causes that need help. If someone has a fire, we can help them directly. We have now grown to 50 women.”

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A grant writer friend heard about the Levitt music grant and helped with the application. “It was a little daunting,” Williams says. “We didn’t know about hiring a sound and light crew or working through a talent buyer to hire performers, but, again, we had help.”

She says many of the other towns are backed by Chamber of Commerce groups or others. “We are an all-volunteer organization, and we have no staff.” 2

Because the planners are all female, they wanted a strong female representation on the lineups. “We have listened to lots of YouTube videos to get a good musical mix,” they say. Some performers are from central Iowa, while others are from spots like Nashville, Syracuse, and New Orleans.

They also wanted a good push for the community of Earlham. The main food vendor will be the local grocery store with sandwiches and other foods. Other craft vendors will be local. Kids’ activities will be sponsored by area groups, such as Scouts or 4-H clubs.

Dates and performers, concerts at 6 p.m. Sundays at Earlham City Park:
June 2 — Damon Dotson Band (from Des Moines); opening act, Harper & Lee.
June 9 — Parranderos Latin Combo (from Des Moines); open act, The New Mexicos.
June 16 — Elliott Whitmore (from Montrose, IA); opening act, Dustin Smith.
June 23 — Roanoke (from Nashville, TN)l opening act, Bruce Day.
June 30 — The Foxies (from Nashville, TN); opening act, Emily Scott Robinson.
July 14 — Flow Tribe (from New Orleans, LA)
July 21 — Sophistafunk (from Syracuse, NY); opening act, Patrease Hartman.
July 28 — Annalibera (from Des Moines); opening act, Joshua Sinclair.
Aug. 4 — Devon Gilfillian (from East Nashville, TN)
Aug. 11 — Jaedyn James and The Hunger (from Minneapolis, MN)
(Note: If raining, concerts move indoors to the Earlham school.)
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