Last night marked the start of the 36th season of River Rhythms, the annual concert series put on by the city of Albany's Parks & Recreation Department.
River Rhythms has grown into one of the mid-valley's signature summer events, a place for people to gather to enjoy some music, to be sure, but something else just as essential: a sense of community.
The event has grown to the point where a typical River Rhythms evening will attract 10,000 or so people to the park; on those occasions when lightning strikes and a musical act was booked right before it had a big hit or jumped to the next stage of fame (think Andy Grammer or The Dixie Chicks or Sugarland), the event can attract 18,000 or so people.
Parks Department planners work hard as they build the roster for each concert season to get a little something to satisfy most musical tastes. (And they have to do that within a reasonably tight budget for entertainment.) The result is that each of us can point to a particular concert as the one we're most excited to see. And, naturally, there will be others that leave us a little lukewarm.
But in a very real way, the music is just an excuse for a community to gather on a pleasant summer evening. And that, it seems to us, is the real benefit of the festivals and the fairs and other events that help to make summertime special in the mid-valley.
These events are opportunities for us to step outside the grind of our day-to-day routines. Even our weekends have become crammed with chores and errands that we slide onto lists and attack with grim determination — that is, if we don't have to use those weekends to try to attack the work that we didn't get done during the week.
River Rhythms (or any county fair or any community festival or parade) gives us an opportunity to shake up the rhythms of our daily routines. We can meet up with friends we haven't seen in months. We can make new friends. We can treat ourselves to a food item that, frankly, we shouldn't be eating at every meal, but once a week won't hurt. We can recline back in a chair or on a blanket and gaze up at the summer sky, something we don't spend as much time doing as we should.
We can dance. That also is something we could stand to spend more time doing.
A lot of work is required to put on an event like River Rhythms, and you can say the same thing about any other event like it — a county fair, a parade, a festival. We're grateful for those efforts. And we're grateful for communities that understand and appreciate how events like River Rhythms aren't unnecessary accessories but are rather essential components of quality of life.
By the way, don't forget about Summer Sounds, the Monday concert series at Monteith: The series starts Monday at 7 p.m. with Kalimba, an Earth, Wind & Fire tribute band, and ends on Monday, July 29, with bluesman Curtis Salgado. (mm)
A bill to veto
Here's a quick followup to an editorial earlier this week about Senate Bill 761, which would make it more difficult for citizens to qualify an initiative for the ballot.
The bill, which passed the Legislature on its last day, bars initiative supporters from handing out copies of electronic signature sheets to Oregonians to sign and submit. Instead, as The Oregonian newspaper has explained, voters will have to print their own forms or personally ask someone to print one for them. And each signature sheet must include the complete text of the proposed measure.
In an interview this week with OPB, Gov. Kate Brown singled out the bill as one that made her "grumpy." And she said that as a legislator and as secretary of state, the initiative process was "near and dear to my heart."
Here's something Brown can do that would make her less grumpy about the bill: Veto it. (mm)