PANORAMA - People dancing, people playing – the concerts are back.

Saturday in the Park

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Gerardo Soto plays acoustic Latin pop during the first Saturday of concerts at Pioneer Park.

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Gerardo Soto plays his smooth brand of acoustic Latin pop during the first Saturday of concerts at Pioneer Park.

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With lawn chairs and blankets, a crowd gathers under the trees at Pioneer Park for a Saturday night of music with Gerardo Soto and his band in the gazebo.

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A blur of motion and sound pours from the gazebo stage.

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Spectators to Soto's Saturday concert take a spin at dance with the lively tunes.

With an early threat of rain long gone, a Saturday evening at Pioneer Park brought fresh breezes, gentle sunshine, and groups of people enjoying a carefree day.

Across a patch of lawn, a volleyball game carried on while some spectators sat nearby. Families with children headed to and from the playground, and more than one dog took a stroll with a human friend on the other end of a leash.

The ebb and flow of the park's guests suddenly mingled with unexpected tunes coming from the park's more than 100-year-old bandstand. With amps and microphones set up, musician Gerardo Soto and his band treated those near and around to Latin rhythms through the mingling of guitar, congo drums and romantic lyrics.

The Gerardo Soto band marked the first of three free summer bandstand acts coordinated by the Kirkman House Museum in partnership with the City of Walla Walla.

Kirkman museum board member Rick Tuttle said the concerts first kicked off about three years ago, when the 100th year of the bandstand at Pioneer Park was celebrated.

As a resource on Walla Walla's historical and cultural past, the museum took up the cause of marking the bandstand's 100th year in 2008. Finding live music to play from the bandstand seemed an appropriate homage.

"It's kind of a logical thing," Tuttle said about using the bandstand for concerts.

Yet a few years in, and the concerts could stand to draw more residents. Tuttle said this could be the last of the museum's summertime concerts, if not enough interest is generated to keep them going. Tuttle is hoping that food vendors and some local clubs joining in the evening concerts will draw more people, which could draw bigger bands in the future.

The initial concert's crowd was modest, but dedicated. Several people strolled over to the bandstand, camping chairs in tow, or else settled on blankets or picnic tables to hear the Mexican boleros and Rancheras. Some Kirkman House representatives came prepared with fresh baked cookies and water, and took a stroll around the bandstand selling goods to tho people who were sitting nearby.

For the next concert, to be held July 16 at 6 p.m., Tuttle said he has invited musicians The Table of Contents to play, and West of the Blues BBQ to be on site serving food. The cookies will again be available for sale, because they serve as a fundraiser for the museum. Tuttle said he has also extended an invitation to the Walla Walla Cruisers Club.

Tuttle said he hopes the next concert can come together like the first one.

"With a lot more people," he added.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317.

Concerts at the park

All concerts are free and start at 6 p.m. in the Pioneer Park bandstand. Shows will be canceled or rescheduled in the event of bad weather.

July 16 at 6 p.m. The Table of Contents.

July 30, 6 p.m. The Ken Hanson Band of Portland.

West of the Blues BBQ will be on site for both concerts.

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