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Saturday in the park

  • Article by: CHRISTY DESMITH
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • September 13, 2008 - 3:52 PM

Minnesotans dancing in public, before dark -- it's a rare sight. But in the early evening of Sept. 6, as the sun shone brightly through nimbus clouds, couples of all ages and sizes started to twirl and swing their hips in St. Paul's Mears Park to the popular Latin-music band Salsa del Sol. Others bobbed their heads while lolling on park benches, as kids splashed in the park's man-made stream, all there to enjoy the eclectic Concrete and Grass Lowertown Music Festival.

The two-year-old music fest was spearheaded by Joe Spencer, arts and culture aide to St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman. As Spencer and his wife, Joanne, tried to picnic, their toddler son, Emerson, tugged at his father's arm. "You can go dance," said Spencer, using his best child-whisper. "I have to go up and talk on the stage again."

Having just waved goodbye to the Republican National Convention, jovial Bob Lawton and Roxann Cunningham said they were celebrating the emancipation of their neighborhood. Downtown St. Paul's quiet, open-air feel was restored, they noted. The wind rustled the leaves on the park's many trees. In between bands, you could hear the spilling waters of a nearby fountain. Most important of all, fans enjoyed an especially tasty beer selection from the Great Waters microbrewery, just up the street.

But this being September in Minnesota, the seasons seemed to change in an hour. Just as the leggy singers representing Ordway Center's upcoming "Legally Blonde" and "The Color Purple" took the stage, raindrops began plinking on audience heads.

The older and wiser among the small crowd of about 200 had come prepared: Retirees hunkered down with umbrellas, raincoats and flannel blankets. But most of the hipsters and young parents who had ambled in wearing little more than T-shirts and jeans scattered. Their idyllic evening was shot.

Christy DeSmith is a freelance writer.

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