In March of this year, I called up the City of Portland to see what their plans were for the Dawson Park Concerts this year. They responded that due to COVID-19, they would not be running any of their normal events this year but would instead host a series of ‘pop-up’ concerts which they would not advertise the date and time until right before the events. In the Eliot Neighborhood, with multiple shootings in and around Dawson Park this summer, I did not think we should sit idly by and go a second year without concerts. I have been pleasantly surprised that other organizations are thinking the same way, as I have seen several other events in Dawson Park in addition to the Concert Series that the Eliot Neighborhood has been hosting.
In the beginning, it was just an idea, “I’ll just put in the concert permit and kind of ‘fake it until we make it’”. We set up a page on our website to sign up for sponsors, volunteers, vendors and donation: eliotneighborhood.org/concerts. Meeting weekly, a team of 4 Eliot Board Members (Jennifer, Shireen, Sue and myself) built up trust, divided up tasks and started knocking down planning tasks. Over the course of 10 weeks we went from idea to reality, picking up some big sponsorships along the way. (see their logos to the left). The City of Portland lowered their permit fees substantially and gave us our largest grant, while many other local organizations chipped in big checks including Legacy Health, Toyota of Portland and the Trailblazers. Smaller donors started coming in but how would the event actually go?
We booked a band, found an MC (Joe Bean Keller) who helped find sound experts and a DJ late in the game. One of the Knott Street Boxing coaches recommended one of his boxers sing a rap he had about Dawson Park. The Boxers also have had some demonstration sparring during the concerts as it is during their normal practice time. The Multnomah County Health department’ REACH program contacted us about offering vaccinations, and we had over 50 vaccination shots given at the first concert and over 70 at the second concert. Meeting people where they want to be and giving out gift cards seems to be a good tool in the public health battle that is currently being waged.
With the pandemic still raging, the smaller than expected crowds have been an unsurprising sight, but we still over 400 people come through the first concert and a slightly smaller number at the second, slightly rainy event. We are excited for our future dates, September 16th at 5 –8pm and October 7th starting at 4pm and ending at 7pm due to losing sunlight.
At our first concert, we started grilling chicken on a huge grill but we found that this was way too much effort for the Board to do in addition to the many other tasks needed to host the event. We switched to hot dogs, chips and soda which was much more manageable and the second event went smoothly. We’ll probably continue with this recipe for the future events, but we’re supplementing with a food truck as well.
In the last few weeks before the concerts, our team grew to 6 with my co-chair, Jimmy and Pat joining us. Thanks so much to the team for their support and all volunteers who showed up to help! These concerts couldn’t happen without you.