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Music in the Park season begins

By Staff | Jun 7, 2019

Sue Sitter/PCT Bottineau-based band Higher Maintenance performs Wednesday in Ellery Park despite rainy conditions.

Rugby’s 24th annual Music in the Park season began Wednesday evening with a new stage, scoops of ice cream and intermittent cloudbursts.

Rugby Lions member and event organizer Kathy Kirchofner huddled with fellow Lion Lila Harstad of Rugby Broadcasting and several others beneath Ellery Park’s gazebo, where performances had been held prior to construction of the new stage area.

“My phone lied to me!” Kirchofner said and laughed. “It said it wasn’t supposed to rain!”

But the small crowd enjoyed their ice cream and chatted before the show, unfazed by a few brief downpours and some rumbles of thunder. Umbrellas went up and sheltered the few who sat at picnic tables, and others ran for cover beneath trees and the new stage.

Kirchofner said Music in the Park has been successful so far.

“It’s been good,” she said as she looked toward the grey sky. “It’ll work out. It’ll be wonderful.”

The evening’s performers, a band called Higher Maintenance from Bottineau, invited rain-soaked guests to take shelter behind them on the stage.

“We’ll perform in the round,” said singer Jaque Shelver Marum, who grew up in Rugby and now lives in Bottineau, where she teaches elementary music at Bottineau Public Schools.

After Kirchofner introduced the band, she expressed thanks for the new stage.

“I want not only to thank the Park Board, but also the contractors who built it. So Jerry Block and crew; Pete Salwey; Bartsch Electric, and Walker Landscaping helped do all this,” Kirchofner said.

Park Board Committee Chairman Mark Voeller told the crowd the new stage area would provide shelter for inclement weather, and better views for performances such as Music in the Park.

“A few years back, we saw there was an incline to walk (and people had to look up at the stage). We thought we’d turn it around and have people looking downhill, and I think it’s going to work a lot better,” Voeller said.

Voeller pointed out benches placed in cement slabs in front of the stage area would have their bases evened out in the near future, and the benches may be purchased by individuals or organizations for $500 donations per half bench. Donors would have their names etched in plaques in the cement bases. Voeller said those wishing to make donations may contact him, or park board members Tim Bartsch, Tonia Dosch, Roger Sitter or Rick Srur.

When Higher Maintenance took the stage, Marum told the crowd the band formed when she tried to organize a choir from her school for a fundraiser for Bottineau’s volunteer fire department. The fundraiser took place in the summer, “and my kids bailed on me,” she said and laughed.

Secretaries Leah Benson and Kerry Olson and retired salon owner Diana Wuliger stepped up to help, and the band was born.

The group performed the old favorite, “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” and followed up with the praise hymn “Lord Listen to Your Children.”

The storm clouds moved on, but not before Higher Maintenance chuckled and thanked their audience for “the thunderous applause.”

Next Wednesday’s Music in the Park will feature a performance by Blind Joe, set for 7:00 p.m.

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