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Red Rock Center adapts: Concerts planned in park

FAIRMONT — Necessity is the mother of invention, so Red Rock Center for the Arts in Fairmont has embraced that thought amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With limited indoor seating and little room to practice social distancing for even a small gathering, the center has remained closed to the public in the interest of safety.

However, director Sonja Fortune has been looking for ways to stay connected to the community.

With the advent of summer, the ability to safely gather outside has presented some options. Red Rock will present an all-new summer concert series, “Music in the Park,” beginning Friday. The entertainment will last from noon to 1 p.m. Friday afternoons through July 24 at Citizens Park on Downtown Plaza, next to City Hall. Sponsored by local businesses, the gatherings will include free food — hot dogs, chips and water — while supplies last.

Fortune discussed how the event came to be, and what people can expect.

“We realized back in spring that with COVID we needed to cancel the last two concerts of our season,” she said. “We’re also not positive about what fall is going to hold for us. So we thought we’d better do something to get outdoors where we can do some social distancing, and decided to put on a summer concert series.”

Fortune said another impetus driving the decision was her own fond memories of past outdoor events in Fairmont.

“When I first started at Red Rock, I remember Fridays in the Park downtown and I always thought that was so fun,” she said. “I was so disappointed when that stopped happening.”

When Fortune asked why it ended, she was told it was because of a lack of volunteers.

“So we were doing our Lunch with the Arts concerts indoors every Tuesday back then, which slowly diminished to once a month,” she said. “But a lot of those musicians at the time were pianists, which would be hard to do out in the park.

“So when COVID happened, we needed some new ideas and came up with Music in the Park. We thought this would be a good chance to give it a try and see if it would be something we can possibly continue for years to come, hopefully under better circumstances.”

Fortune offered some information about the musicians who will perform.

“One of the musicians, Connie and Big John Pedersen, is always a huge hit when they entertain for our Lunch with the Arts program,” she noted. “They’re one of our biggest-attended performers.

“I actually came across Sister Luv from the Lanesboro area when camping last year, and I always wanted to have them. Our third group, Alpha and Omega, plays at a lot of wineries and different places throughout southern Minnesota. They really wanted to come back here and play several times, and this is a great opportunity for an outdoor concert.”

Fortune said the goal was to find some family-friendly musicians who would get business people out on their lunch break.

She added that she is grateful for the sponsors of the concerts, including the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment, First Farmers & Merchants Bank, PetersonAnthony Insurance Inc., Profinium, Hy-Vee and Culligan.

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