Earth Day concert in Portage will teach children about conservation -- in fun way

April 10, 2019

Children’s performer Ken Lonnquist won’t lecture the attendees of his Earth Day concert Saturday at Portage Center for the Arts.

He’s written tens of thousands of songs about animals, farming, recycling “and everything else under the moon,” he said, and the people won’t feel like they stumbled into an academic conference.

“I won’t be singing about the acceptable levels of nitrate in water,” he said.

The Madison songwriter is providing the second installment of PCA’s new Family Series, which launched in October with a performance by children’s entertainer Bob Kann.

Lonnquist has recorded more than 30 albums and worked as a professional musician for more than 40 years, at times taking his original songs into Portage schools, Portage festivals and Portage Public Library. His Earth Day concert marks his first local performance in about 10 years, he estimated.

The show is designed for children 12 and under and aims to get them thinking about their planet in ways that are “positive and upbeat,” he said.

The song “Something’s Stinky” provides a good example of what to expect Saturday.

“Anytime you get into odors, you’ll get kids interested right away,” the guitarist said of a selection that encourages children to sing along and determine, of course, what stinks.

“It’s about how if you don’t recycle, you’re stinking up the world,” the performer said.

Lonnquist has written music about hundreds and maybe thousands of different animals, he said, which is great for song requests.

“I don’t claim to have a song written about every animal that lives or ever has lived,” Lonnquist said, “but I’m rarely stumped.”

“Prehistoric Mystery” is a song about what happened to the dinosaurs, a song written for children because, well, children very often love dinosaurs, he said.

Lonnquist doesn’t know all of the dinosaurs – “There are just so many dinosaurs,” he said — but if a child gives Lonnquist a few details about one as he’s strumming the guitar, the performer is more than happy to “whip together a verse that rhymes.”

“I’m pretty quick on my feet,” said Lonnquist, whose song “Animals in the Big Woods” also invites children to name their favorite animals as he sings.

“We can put anything in the big woods,” he said.

His Earth Day concert will last about an hour and include more than a dozen of the artist’s original songs, all of which “hit on the things everyone can relate to and understand,” he said.

That accessibility is important to Lonnquist, especially in matters of the Earth.

“We’re so lucky,” Lonnquist said of the natural resources in Wisconsin and what’s inspired him to write about them for many years. “But when you’re lucky, you might sometimes have a tendency to take it all for granted.

“The fact that PCA decided to hold this concert — I think that alone makes a nice statement,” the musician said of celebrating Earth Day, which officially falls on April 22. “In this concert I think people should expect something that’s enjoyable and not controversial in any way.

“I’ll talk about the things we should cherish, things I think we can all agree we should cherish.”