Live music in the plaza
Thursday evenings in downtown Ludington will once again come alive with music during the spring and summer months, beginning today.
The weekly Live in the Plaza concert series, presented by the Ludington Downtown Development Authority (DDA), starts tonight with a performance from Third Coast Gypsy Jazz, and will continue through the end of August, according to the current performance schedule.
The concert series showcases mostly acoustic solo artists, duos and bands from the Ludington area and beyond, and started three years ago as a way to tack an extra day onto the weekend entertainment offerings in the city, according to Jen Tooman, DDA marketing and communications manager.
“We hire basically acoustic solo artists or duos. We try to keep the music pretty mellow. You can sit down, have a conversation and listen to music,” Tooman told the Daily News. “We were trying to extend the weekend, and that’s something we’re always trying to do — get more people downtown on the days that aren’t Fridays or Saturdays to increase sales for businesses on the off days.”
The concert series started with two goals, according to Tooman — aiding the downtown economy and giving the downtown music scene a boost.
“There wasn’t a whole lot going on in the recurring live music world, so we chose to do this on Thursdays to give artists a chance to perform,” she said.
It’s been a success so far, Tooman added, and this year’s shaping up to be another strong year, with new artists coming from out of the area and plans in place to expand the performance area.
“When we started, we built a simple 10-foot by 10-foot stage, but this year we’re looking at adding a gazebo canopy,” she said. “We’re hoping to have that up by (the first concert) — and if not, it will be up by Memorial Day weekend at the latest.
“We’ve (also) opened up the area more by trimming up some of the cedar trees in the plaza.”
The Live in the Plaza concert series is an economic boon for the downtown area, as it gives locals one more reason to check out what Ludington has to offer, according to Tooman.
“Businesses in the surrounding area love it because they see some increased foot traffic,” Tooman said. “It’s one of those things where people might be downtown and shopping, and they might stop and listen for a while before going to get some food or ice cream. There’s a lot of flow to the crowd, and the music kind of adds to the ambiance of the evening.”
Tooman said the DDA checks in with downtown businesses about how the concerts have helped, or things business owners would like to see done differently.
“We communicate with businesses ... and the response has been positive,” Tooman said. “There’s usually a pretty good crowd and most of the time all the tables are filled.”
Artists from outside the area include Olivia Mainville from Holland, Cousin Curtis from Colorado and Eric Engblade — who is originally from Ludington but now lives downstate, according to Tooman — among others.
The series features returning performers and some new faces, one of which is Andrew Schnitker, who will take the stage on Aug. 22.
“(Schnitker) does hand-pan music, which is unique and something we haven’t had before,” Tooman said. “It’s like a metal hand drum. It’s not your typical instrument, and it’s cool to introduce people to something they’ve never heard before.”
Tooman said performers are scheduled in collaboration with the Friday Night Live committee, which finds artists for larger concerts that start on Friday, July 12.
“(When we’re scheduling Friday Night Live), we ask musicians which dates they’re available, and when we go through that list, we find artists that would work for Thursdays in the plaza,” Tooman said.
It’s also a good opportunity for musicians who are new to performing, she said, noting that the DDA is always looking for new performers to contribute their talents to the series.
“It’s a good place for musicians who are just starting out — spots available at the Ludington Farmers Market, which starts Friday in the plaza — as well,” she said.
Prospective performers can contact Tooman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to Third Coast Gypsy Jazz, which opens the series today, the current lineup for Live in the Plaza 2019 features Fremont John, who will perform on May 30; Olivia Mainville on June 6; Mike Luusua on June 13; Brad Lee on June 23; Tom Zatarga on June 27; Jimmy Dodson, who will perform on Wednesday, July 3; Adam Knudsen on July 11; Cheryl Wolfram on July 18; Eric Engblade on July 25; Jason Hargreaves on Aug. 1; Mike Lenich and 80 Cows on Aug. 8; Tyler Reed on Aug. 15; Andrew Schnitker on Aug. 22; and Cousin Curtis on Aug. 29.
The concerts are free and open to the public, and are held from 5 to 8 p.m. every Thursday from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.
Tooman said the parking lots on Court Street are ideal for attending the concerts. For more information, visit www.downtownludington.org.