When Joan Baez played at the Botanic Gardens a few weeks ago, she kicked off her shoes and danced around the stage, pulling her keyboard player away from his instrument to join her. As she did, people in the audience got up from their blankets and danced too, because how often do you get the chance to dance alongside a folk legend in a field surrounded by flowers?
The Botanic Gardens Summer Concert Series is a decades-long tradition. For years, the Gardens have been inviting music-lovers to load up picnic baskets, grab a blanket, and relax in the middle of the gardens with some of music's biggest names. The concerts are intimate. The setting is enchanting. But, make no mistake, you're going to pay for it.
Priced between $50 to $85, the picnic in the park is not cheap, but neither are the acts. This is the fifth season that the Gardens have worked with Swallow Hill Music to produce the series, and their line-up is impressive. Still to come this season is Barenaked Ladies tonight at the York Street Gardens, Sara Bareilles tomorrow at the Chatfield location, B.B. King, Sheryl Crow, Martin Sexton, Colbie Caillat and St. Vincent. That follows last year's ambitious collection, which featured both Tony Bennett and Steve Martin.
With that kind of line-up and consistent sell-outs, it's no surprise that the summer concert series is a "significant" source of revenue for the Gardens, especially now that the larger Chatfield location has its own set of summer shows. Botanic Gardens marketing director Jennifer Riley says the concerts support a wide range of the organizations' efforts.
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"We want to put music out there as a hook to get people here to enjoy this beautiful venue," she says. "We want to help people see the gardens through the prism of whatever their interest is - be it music, cooking, shopping for locally sourced gifts, or growing vegetables. We want to bring people in and make them realize that the Gardens does have something for both them and the community."
The Botanic Gardens' mission is to connect people with plants, and that extends beyond the physical grounds they maintain. Their Soul 2 Soil program manages vegetable gardens at Mariposa, a Denver Housing Authority development, and runs a produce distribution program there that provided 1,100 pounds of fresh produce last year. The Gardens are also using the concerts to launch more healthy-eating education efforts both on site and in schools across Denver. Thanks to the concerts, these programs are mushrooming.
"We want the people that care about music," Riley says. "We want them to see what this entertainment is doing for the community and feel good about it."
In other words, come dance, drink, and listen, and then pat yourself on the back.
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