By Sonya Vartabedian
---- — What’s not to love about Andover’s annual summer Concerts in the Park?
Spread out a blanket or set up a chair in The Park at Chestnut and Bartlet streets, unpack a picnic, relax and enjoy the stylings of a jazz ensemble or toe-tapping selections from The Great American Songbook.
For years, the weekly concert series presented by the town’s Department of Community Services has been a popular rite of summer that organizers have prided themselves on offering free to the public.
But this year, they are looking for a little help keeping the music playing on Wednesday nights.
Director Mary Montbleau said while her department has avoided seeking financial support for the concerts the last 20 or so years, it is once again asking local businesses to consider sponsoring one of this summer’s six shows. It also welcomes donations from the public.
With requests for camperships to help youngsters pay for the department’s summer park program on the rise, Montbleau said the town Finance Committee urged organizers to find concert sponsors so all available public funds could directly cover program fees for youths in need.
Montbleau said the price tag for the concert series varies from year to year depending on the lineup, with some bands just starting out willing to perform for almost nothing, while other seasoned acts warranting a higher stipend. This year’s series costs about $4,000.
“If you enjoy it and come every summer, we’re just looking for a little support,” she said.
Reading Community Bank has already signed on to support the July 31 and Aug. 7 concerts. It’s the bank’s second year as a sponsor.
In addition, Jazz Disciples of South Church in Andover, which performed last week, is donating $100 of its fee to help fund a summer campership for a youngster.
The town playground program costs $500 per camper. The Andona Society provides partial camperships for 35 children. Enterprise Bank is also sponsoring a camper. The town is still seeking partial camperships as well as about a half-dozen full camperships.
As for the concerts, Montbleau said there’s no denying their appeal. Last year, nearly 3,000 people enjoyed the performances, and the same turnout is on track for this summer.
While the outdoor shows are a great tradition throughout New England, Montbleau said the bands especially seem to enjoy playing in Andover.
“The band leaders all say Andover has the largest, the highest bandstand,” she said. “A lot of the bands elect to play in front of it as a backdrop instead of going up on it. The crowd seems to like the band up close and personal.”
Donations for the summer concert series may be sent to the Department of Community Services, care of Mary Montbleau, Andover Town Offices, 36 Bartlet St., Andover 01810. For more information, call 978-623-8274 or visit www.andoverdcs.com.