By Kristi Kates
The Charlotte Ross Lee Concert Series at Pennsylvania Park in downtown
Petoskey was the dream of its namesake.
She was the champion of this community event, explains Carlin Smith,
president of the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce. She raised the
money, booked the shows, and made all of the preparations. I look at it as
Charlottes legacy - a gift she left to our community.
That musical gift presents Ray Kamalay performing at the gazebo this
Tuesday, followed by storyteller Ron Fowler on Wednesday and the Air
National Guard Band on Thursday. A similar musical mix continues all
A music lover who played the piano, Charlotte Ross Lee simply wanted to
share music with the Petoskey community. Although precise details are a
little dusty, it looks like the series itself began around 1979, with just
half a dozen shows in that first summer, always at the Pennsylvania Park
gazebo, where it continues today.
It was important to her that nearly all genres of music were featured
each year. It was also important to her that the musicians were paid at
least something for their performances, he says, she didnt want them to
perform for free.
For years, the chamber provided funding for the series, and when Lees
health started failing, the chamber staff took on more responsibility.
When Lee passed away in 2000, the chamber decided to carry on the
Mary Grace Otis, of Crooked Tree Arts Center, put this years series
together, collaborating with Downtown Petoskey, the City of Petoskey, and
The concert series is sponsored by local businesses and organizations,
which makes it a real gift to the community, since all of the concerts are
free, Otis says, what better way to enjoy summer in Petoskey than
relaxing on a blanket in the park and listening to great music? Its a
great venue for performers, a beautiful place to play, and a welcoming
crowd; some acts have performed summer after summer.
Crooked Trees connections have helped take the series to yet another
level, even though its only the first year CTAC has been involved.
Because of our contacts with local artists, it just seemed like a good
fit, Otis says. The series is so unique, because we have local
performers who are well-known and loved, as well as national acts who just
happen to be traveling through Northern Michigan - or who are looking for
an excuse to be up here this time of year!
AIR GUARD TO AFRICA
One of the shows Otis is most enthused about is the June 30 event, during
which the Air National Guard Band of the Great Lakes will open the evening
This will be a wonderful way for people to kick off their July 4th
holiday weekend celebration. This group of more than 40 performers will
From a little farther away, the series will be welcoming some
multicultural acts, including Nashville-based Native American
flutist/violinist Arvel Bird, and Facinet Bangoura from Guinea, who will
present ancient and traditional music, song, dance, and rare instruments
from West Africa.
Hes one of the best, if not the best, balafon (a tuned African
percussion instrument) players in the world, Otis says, hell be
performing on July 12 at our 12:15 afternoon show.
Local acts will include the Jelly Roll Blues Band, the Petoskey Jazz Band,
Michelle Chenard, and Kirby, plus the high-energy trio The Worker Bees, a
local cover band thats been generating a buzz in town performing tunes by
the likes of The Stray Cats, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Hank
Another local talent, musician Aaron Otto, will be playing traditional
songs on the Native American flute, performing alongside storyteller Tony
Miron, who will entertain the audience with his engaging stories and
Its really going to be wonderful, Otis says, we are privileged to have
so many unique acts in our area.
The Charlotte Ross Lee Concert Series takes place at the gazebo in
Pennsylvania Park in downtown Petoskey (the rain location is Crooked Tree
Arts Center); for show dates and times, visit www.petoskey.com