Jazz in the Park


There was a whole lot of toe-tapping going on in heaven Friday night. I could feel the vibrations while I enjoyed a jazz concert at the bandstand in Civic League Park. This little park in the center of town holds the legacies of several generations.

The bandstand is the legacy of the most recently passed generation—folks who had a dream of concerts in the park. A few decades ago they donated money and labor to build an impressive, professionally-designed, concrete structure. Their dream was destined to come true, even after they’ve left us: Dick and Don, Bill and John, Wayne and Ella, Marge and Dave, and others. Their spirits were fully in attendance as music filled the park.

At the south end of the park is the previous generation’s legacy, a thoroughly modern library and cultural center for our small town. Libraries are so much more than just books these days. There are internet services, arts and crafts lessons, read-aloud sessions for tots, book clubs, summer programs for kids, lectures and dramatic presentations.

The legacy of an even earlier generation sits quietly between the bandstand and library: a somber memorial stone for those who gave their lives in World War II.

All around the park is the legacy of pioneer women who settled in a scrappy frontier town little more than a century ago. They envisioned a place of shade in a harshly sun-baked desert. Now we sit under giant trees that grew from seedlings they planted. It was an impossible dream yet they persisted. They pumped water into buckets, then hefted the buckets from their homes to the nascent park. I was told this story by an elderly woman, the daughter of pioneers, when I first moved to town.

I was told another story of an even older generational legacy. About a quarter-mile from Civic League Park, on the other side of the river, East Side Park is a larger and more active expanse with swimming pool, ball fields, rodeo grounds, small museum and RV park. I’ve been told it was originally an Indian allotment, incredibly donated to the community for use as a park.

For many years I held the belief that our parks and public structures should be named for people who contributed to the community, who gave time, talent, and property for the benefit of all. Certainly, I thought, East Side Park should be named for the Native American who gave the land, not for its location relative to the river. But in my town—in pretty much any small town—so many people have given so generously, we’d have to affix a name to every light post and fire hydrant to honor them all.

The sound of high school vocalists improvising scat with convincing skill brought me back to the present from my mental meandering. What, I wondered, will be the legacy of this new generation? They’re already laying the groundwork by keeping the dreams of past generations alive.

3 thoughts on “Jazz in the Park

  1. katewallacejohnson

    Thanks for writing the names of those to whom we owe a debt for the civic property, Mary. And keeping in mind how much grit and determination went into creating a viable library system for our little NCW towns, I’m grateful for the whole shebang.


    1. Mary Koch

      Ah, yes. The story behind formation of the regional library is worthy of a book. Sadly, I believe all those who fought for it so tirelessly are gone.


  2. Don Pearce

    Thank you, Mary, for encouraging us! We hope to keep this park and the band shell’s purpose alive for years to come!


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