Unknown to many and enjoyed by a few, a series of concerts in Loveland, Colorado that boast free admission are making their mark on the area’s music scene.
In a city more known for its Valentine’s Day tradition, the Summer Side of Loveland concert series at the Foote Lagoon Amphitheater , located at 500 E. Third Street, is drawing crowds of all ages. These annual concerts have been happening for more than 15 years and this year feature six acts, all of differing genres, from across the state. According to Rich Harris, the manager of the Rialto Theater who was responsible for booking the bands for these concerts, said the impact the shows have on residents is the best part of the experience.
“All of these events are mini community celebrations. That’s why you come. These people really enjoy it and they enjoy each other. They come with friends and sit in the same places,” said Harris. “It’s a celebration and to have the city sponsor it and to have everyone come out like this, that’s what it’s all about.”
This is Harris’s first year working in Loveland but he has worked at numerous music organization in Colorado over the years. Harris said that over 1,500 people have attended each of the concerts and that finding bands to play was hardly a challenge.
“Without even trying, I had at least 100 bands contact me about this series, which means I had to turn down 94 of them,” said Harris. “Everybody knows about it, at least all the bands know. It’s a coveted gig.”
When deciding which bands to schedule, Harris said the most important thing to him was to get a variety of acts, and he succeeded. The four acts that have already played at the amphitheater were Americana band Haunted Windchimes, soul act Mary Louise Lee, the Queen City Jazz Band and the folk rock band Runaway Express. A rock band, Chris Daniels and The Kings, and a country band, Sons and Brothers, are set to play on July 24 and 31, respectively.
The band that played Thursday July 17, was Runaway Express. The co-founder and singer of the band, Jim Ratts had never played in Loveland before but said he was impressed.
“The entire experience was a pleasure. The people were very kind and very receptive and it was well organized. We enjoyed the sound and we really enjoyed the people,” said Ratts.
Ratts, who also owns and operates the recording studio Raven Recording in Englewood, Colorado, has worked with a number of people from big name acts like Jimmy Ibbotson of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Bob Shane of the Kingston Trio. Even with a past of large shows, though, Ratts said that events like this concert series are some of the most important.
“They are shows that are sponsored by people that value this extra element in their community. The fact that music is valued to the degree that somebody will underwrite it is incredible,” Ratts said. “You should be able to listen to music in your hometown community complex and it’s a thing of beauty if it can be provided for free.”
Even though the Foote Lagoon concert series is the longest-running in the town, it is not the only free concert series in town. The Seventh Annual Sounds of Centerra concert series is being held every Friday until August 15 in the Chapungu Sculpture Park at Centerra.
Still, Harris said he thinks that the Foote Lagoon series has an advantage: a unique venue located in downtown Loveland.
“Almost every community does something like this, a ‘free shows in the park’ kind of deal but we really have kind of a premier situation here. The location goes a long way and we’re very fortunate,” said Harris.
“Two of the greatest aspects of summer are going out on the town and attending outdoor concerts.
The Summer Side of Loveland concert series at the Foote Lagoon Amphitheater is a great example of combining the two.
Some people arrive almost two hours in advance to make sure they get a good seat at the unique venue.
On July 17th, the band Runaway Express did their sound check with only about a dozen people there, but by the time Loveland Mayor Cecil Gutierrez introduced the band, over fifteen-hundred people had gathered in the stadium seats and grass surrounding the stage.
With activities to entertain kids and live music for the adults, the event was loud and festive.
The concert series is sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, which is the state’s largest non-profit health plan.
Kathy Chapman works as a medicare sales executive for the company and said she loves what the shows do for the community.”
“When people come out to hear live music, it lightens their mood and improves their health just by being outside in the fresh air, hearing music, hanging out with their friends. It’s a joy in life.”
“For JTC 326, I’m Jordan Mierau.”