The Kenai Central High School Concert Band performs during Pops in the Parking Lot at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai Central High School Concert Band performs during Pops in the Parking Lot at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai bands take annual concert outside

“Pops in the Parking Lot” stood in for Kenai Central High School’s year-end band concert

In the Kenai Central High School parking lot on Thursday, with snow on the ground, a strong breeze in the air, and before a crowd attired in winter jackets, hats and blankets, the Kenai Bands played a variety of music from “Star Wars,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Top Gun: Maverick.”

It was “Pops in the Parking Lot,” an evolution of Kenai Central High School’s year-end band concert that band director Christian Stephanos said was intended to be a more fun and rewarding end to the school year.

In addition to the Kenai Central Concert Band, the beginning and concert bands from Kenai Middle School also joined in on the fun.

Set up right in front of the school, the bands didn’t look unlike how they would in the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium, dozens of seats, stands and instruments set up in a familiar semicircle.

Unfamiliar was the sea of lawn chairs and winter coats — attendees eating hot dogs, hamburgers and chips as cars passed by down the Kenai Spur Highway only 100 yards away. Gusts of wind upended a couple of music stands.

Stephanos said moving the annual Pops Concert outside is something he’s wanted to do since he started teaching in Kenai. He said that it took more coordination than an ordinary concert, and that he needed to lean on parent volunteers for help with food and with setup and takedown.

“Had it been a little bit warmer, the kids would have loved it a little bit more,” Stephanos said. “They liked the idea, their hands were just cold.”

At the start of the concert, Stephanos said that Pops in the Parking Lot was the first annual, and on Monday, he said he was looking forward to next year — hoping for warmer weather.

The concert, Stephanos said, was scheduled for the first week of May because it would leave time for the bands to prepare for graduation and for eighth grade farewell. He said it was a happy coincidence that the concert landed on May 4, Star Wars Day. The bands were happy to lean into it.

The Kenai Middle beginning band closed their opening set with “The Mandalorian,” a rendition of the theme from the Star Wars Disney+ series. The Kenai Middle concert band kept that energy by closing out their set with “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” again the main theme from a Disney+ series.

The Kenai Central concert band both opened and closed with “Star Wars” pieces. They played “Duel of the Fates” from “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace,” and a suite of music from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Bridging the middle school and high school bands was the debut of only the first part of next year’s drumline set. The full piece is titled “Maverick” and the melody was easily recognizable as Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone.”

Next year, Stephanos said he wants to grow the production with a tailgating section.

For more information about the Kenai Bands, visit facebook.com/KenaiBands.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

The Kenai Middle School Band performs in front of a crowd in winter jackets during Pops in the Parking Lot at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai Middle School Band performs in front of a crowd in winter jackets during Pops in the Parking Lot at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Parent volunteers serve hot dogs and burgers during Pops in the Parking Lot at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Parent volunteers serve hot dogs and burgers during Pops in the Parking Lot at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A Kenai Middle School Concert Band trumpet player walks up to receive an award during Pops in the Parking Lot at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A Kenai Middle School Concert Band trumpet player walks up to receive an award during Pops in the Parking Lot at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Jake Phillips receives an award and shakes hands with Band Director Christian Stephanos during Pops in the Parking Lot at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Jake Phillips receives an award and shakes hands with Band Director Christian Stephanos during Pops in the Parking Lot at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kage Adkins strikes a gong during Pops in the Parking Lot at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kage Adkins strikes a gong during Pops in the Parking Lot at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A trombone player in the robes of a Jedi warms up during Pops in the Parking Lot at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A trombone player in the robes of a Jedi warms up during Pops in the Parking Lot at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Thursday, May 4, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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