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Wednesday, 01 July 2015 13:14

After 20 years, Friends of RiverFront continues to grow

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Tom Buchs of Waukesha works on one of his paintings in June during the annual Edge of the Rock Plein Air painting event, sponsored by Friends of RiverFront. Buchs won the Beloit College Patron of the Arts award for his painting "Power Plant Dam." Tom Buchs of Waukesha works on one of his paintings in June during the annual Edge of the Rock Plein Air painting event, sponsored by Friends of RiverFront. Buchs won the Beloit College Patron of the Arts award for his painting "Power Plant Dam." Terry Mayer/staff

BELOIT -- Taking a stroll through Beloit’s Riverside Park on Friday evenings throughout the summer, walkers can enjoy the sounds of jazz or blues music playing in the background. If they return Monday, they’ll notice dancers twirling the night away.

Friends of RiverFront, which is celebrating its 20th season this year, organizes a variety of events along the Rock River throughout the summer.

(SCROLL TO BOTTOM FOR SCHEDULE)

The friends group hosts Music at Harry’s Place on Friday evenings and Dancing at Harry’s Place on Monday nights at the Harry C. Moore Pavilion, located in Riverside Park, 1160 S. Riverside Drive in Beloit.

They also host the 11-day Edge of the Rock Plein Air painting event in early June each year, and in August they host the popular outdoor movie on the lawn.

Jennifer Kodl, executive director for Friends of RiverFront, said the group enjoys providing entertainment for park patrons.

"It’s very exciting. We’re thrilled to be able to continue our mission and vision for the riverfront," Kodl said. "It’s a very exciting season for us. It’s full of great entertainment."

Music at Harry’s Place is held from June through September. Food is available at 5:30 p.m., and the concerts begin at 7 p.m. Dancing at Harry’s Place is held from June to August, and lessons start at 7 p.m. with open dancing beginning at 8 p.m.

Kodl said both activities have attracted regular performers and dance instructors each year.

"It’s a well-run machine at this point, but we have tried-and-true favorites, bands that come every year," Kodl said. "We have dance instructors who we have longtime relationships with who come and hold instruction on Monday evenings."

Several types of dances are featured as part of Dancing at Harry’s Place including the swing, cha cha, tango and waltz. The friends group attracts different types of bands for the music series.

"There’s a mixture of music groups from blues to jazz to R&B," Kodl said. "We have a country group this year, so it’s just all kinds of contemporary music that people come down and enjoy."

Friends of RiverFront also hosts the Movie on the Big Lawn event in August. This year’s movie event will be held at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21, featuring "Gnomeo and Juliet." Kodl said attendance for the riverfront activities has grown during the past 20 years.

Plein air, a French phrase meaning "in the open air," brings artists from throughout the region to the shores of the Rock River for 11 days of painting. The event culminates with the annual awards show.

"It started much smaller, and we have built up to having such a full season," Kodl said. "We have terrific attendance, varied audiences and a lot of interest. People use (the events) for their own reunions and parties and get togethers, as well. It’s common for people to meet at Harry’s Place for Friday evening activities."

Kodl said many people attend the events to enjoy the amenities at Riverside Park.

"I think a lot of people take interest and pride in Riverside Park," Kodl said. "There’s been a lot of additions that have been made to it over the years, and that helps bring people down. With so many different things you can do down there and events you can enjoy, it’s kind of hard to stay away."

Friends of RiverFront has about 25 volunteers who help set up for the concerts and dance events. There’s also a group of volunteers called the Blooming Bunch, which meets from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Tuesdays, that help maintain plants and remove weeds near the Rotary River Center and Harry Moore Pavilion.

Kodl said the group has a steady amount of volunteers, because people are interested in helping to maintain the park and riverfront area.

"We have pretty good luck with people just asking to help," Kodl said. "People believe in what we do and feel fortunate that we’re able to do this for Beloit, and they want to be involved in anyway that they can."

Kodl said the riverfront area and its events help attract visitors to the city of Beloit.

"We believe that friends events are designed to bring life to the riverfront with programs that are unique and authentic to help create a place of identity," Kodl said. "It also creates an incredible first impression."

For more information about Friends of RiverFront, call 608-364-2890 or go to FriendsofRiverfront.com.

2015 Schedule

Music at Harry’s Place

Friday evenings, 7 p.m.

July 10, Moonlight Jazz Orchestra

July 17, Lil Vito and the Torpedoes

July 24, Mr. Big Stuff

July 31, Westside Andy

Aug. 14, Gary McAdams Band

Aug. 28, The Jimmys

Sept. 4, Dave Potter Trio

Sept. 11, Copper Box

Dancing at Harry’s Place

Monday evenings

Free lessons at 7 p.m.

Open dance at 8 p.m.

July 6, Line dance with Country Plus

July 20, Tango with Darrah and Peggy Chavey

July 27, Swing with Forest City Swing

Aug. 3, Swing with Forest City Swing

Aug. 10, Line dance with Country Plus

Aug. 17, Square dance with Petunia City Squares

Aug. 24, Couples pattern with Country Plus

Aug. 31, Rumba with Darrah and Peggy Chavey

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