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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Friday Nights in the Park

The second season of Friday Nights in the Park begins July 5 from 6 to 10 PM in Veterans Park, at the corner of Third and Main Streets in Napa. It’s a free, outdoor musical event that got rave reviews last year, except for one thing – people loved it, and also hated that it only lasted four weeks. According to Bill La Liberte, Executive Director of the Downtown Napa Association (DNA), which organizes the event, the group had to dig deep to come up with additional funding to stretch it out. The good news is that they were successful – this year, Friday Nights in the Park will last for five weeks, through August 2.

“It costs a lot of money to put on an event, much less doing it every week for multiple weeks,” said La Liberte. “And this is just one of the free events we host. The DNA also puts on the annual Hometown Halloween trick-or-treating event and the Napa Christmas Parade. We can’t do it all alone, and depend on the generosity of community sponsors to share in the costs.” People should know that the DNA is committed to keeping all of its events going. “We love these events as much as anybody.” 

Friday Nights in the Park was born when after seventeen years, Napa City Nights called it quits. Connie Anderson, publisher of Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine, then-president of the Downtown Napa Association (DNA) and a life-long lover of live music, reacted immediately when the event announced the “retirement” of the summer series. “We have to figure out how to keep this alive. We also have to make it bigger than ever,” she had said.

“We were super happy about the direction the DNA took and that they are keeping the music going,” said Chris Chesbrough, who with his wife, Sue, and a dozen other volunteers staged Napa City Nights for its entire run. “Chefs Market was the model for how live music is done in Napa. The DNA ran that, and they are the perfect group to run Friday Nights in the Park.” As a musician, Chesbrough understands that both musicians and the attendees are crucial parts of the mix. “Napa has a very cool community of musicians. The audience is just as important as the music is.”

One change the DNA made is to only feature two bands a night, to limit the down time between band set ups. The July 12 event will feature People of the Earth, who regularly sell out local events, and Dennis Johnson, who has been described as a world-class slide guitar player. The series ends August 2 with Self Proclaimed Heroes, a local and popular cover band, and Tom Rigney & Flambeau, which specializes in “blazing Cajun and Zydeco two-steps, low-down Blues, funky New Orleans grooves, Boogie Woogie piano and Roots Rock and Roll.” How’s that for an encore week? “The decision to go with two bands each night instead of the three from past years, focusing on more playing time and really good bands, got great feedback,” said La Liberte.  

This is a community effort in every respect. Downtown Napa property owners, operating as the Property Owners Improvement District (PBID) has been a presenting sponsor for both years. Bank of Marin, the founding and continuing sponsor of Napa’s Hometown Halloween, has joined in the production of Friday Nights in the Park. And not enough can be said for the support of the City of Napa, from permitting to event logistics. Without the support of these sponsors, there would be no event.

This year, Main Street will be closed directly in front of Veterans Park, from Second to Third Streets. “We’ll have food vendors there, to make it easier to get to them.” said La Liberte. “We are also bringing back free valet bicycle parking, which lots of people took advantage of last year.” Light food and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for sale. Low-back chairs are permitted, but anyone spreading out a blanket may have to remove it or share it with others as the crowd grows.

Visit for more details. It’s going to be a great summer series!


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