For the last 12 weeks, two bands have hit the stage at Soldotna Creek park each Wednesday as part of the Levitt AMP Soldotna Music Series.
“We’ve had a fantastic summer music series,” Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Maddy McElrea said Thursday. “It’s been awesome to see the community and visitors show up, rain or shine.”
She said the weather has seemed to favor the series, with rain often letting up conveniently just in time for the performances. Though she said even when the weather isn’t quite so pleasant, the community still makes it out with jackets and umbrellas.
“It’s become something that everybody looks forward to, all summer long,” McElrea said. “The sense of community that the music series brings is really inspiring … not only locals, but we get a ton of visitors that come to enjoy the music series as well.”
Last Wednesday looked like any other — clouds cleared, the sun shone, and local bands took the stage before a grassy field filled with lawn chairs and dancing bodies.
Hot Mess opened, bringing high energy rock to the park. They were followed by Riverfront Gang, who maintained the energy while bringing a slightly different sensibility — and a saxophone — to the party.
McElrea said that, as of Aug. 16th’s performance, the Soldotna Music Series had drawn more than 15,700 attendees — estimating that an additional 500 to 800 had attended last week’s performance on Aug. 23. That makes for an average of well over 1,000 attendees at Soldotna Creek Park each Wednesday in summer.
The peak attendance, McElrea said, was July 12’s show, Diggin Dirt with opener Ellie Nelson. That Wednesday saw around 2,600 people at the park.
“It’s been a huge success,” she said. “We continue to work hard going forward to make this the best music series that we can.”
Part of that effort was the expansion of lawn activities, which McElrea said had been offered before, but which this year the chamber tried to “elevate.” To that end, community partners took the helm of several of those events, scheduled for 5-6 p.m. before the music starts. These included a color run, crafting days, a book reading by local author Chris Jenness, a demonstration by the Kenai Watershed Forum, and a series of four presentations hosted by the Kenaitze Indian Tribe.
On July 5, as one of those lawn activities, the chamber distributed to children 100 free life jackets, fishing poles and fishing containers, donated by Soldotna Hardware & Fishing, Central Peninsula Hospital’s Safe Kids and Alaska Communications.
“We’re trying to engage with the kids, to make it as family friendly as possible and offer a fun activity each Wednesday,” McElrea said.
Those activities will return next year.
There’s one more opportunity to partake in the summertime festivities, with Derek Poppin Band headlining on Wednesday. Openers Sue Biggs and Jack Will hit the stage at 6 p.m., after a final lawn activity hosted by the Kenaitze.
McElrea said that’s one final opportunity to get out and see two “incredible” local bands. That night, the chamber will make one final push for its summer-long raffle — two airline tickets on the line. The raffle, she said, is raising funds to see the Soldotna Music Series continue.
The Levitt Foundation provides grant funding based on a three-year cycle. According to previous Clarion reporting, Soldotna has been approved for funding in 2023, 2024 and 2025. The city can potentially receive that three-year grant two more times, for funding into 2031, but won’t be able to receive that support forever.
“We know that money won’t be there forever, so we’re making efforts to raise funds to continue this music series at the caliber that we’ve been able to create it at,” she said.
For more information about the Levitt AMP Soldotna Music Series, visit facebook.com/LevittAMPSoldotnaMusicSeries.