Leslie Zilka remembers when the Spokane Symphony made its celebrated premiere at Pavillion Park nearly two decades ago.
Zilka was serving as president of Friends of Pavillion Park (FOPP) at the time, a nonprofit group that has coordinated the community’s popular Summer Festival for the past 22 years. While the local orchestra had appeared at Comstock Park on Spokane’s South Hill for years, bringing brass, wind, string and percussion sections to Liberty Lake’s popular greenspace would prove to be quite the coup.
“The festival was growing but to bring in the symphony made it a bonafide summer event,” said Zilka who served as FOPP president from 2000 through 2001. “It was absolutely fantastic.”
The Labor Day weekend tradition has remained intact ever since. The concert is named after the late Lud Kramer, who served as Washington Secretary of State from 1965 to 1975 and was integral to a number of community causes after moving to Liberty Lake later in life.
Zilka said Kramer was the one who took the initiative to secure the festival’s signature feature.
“It was Lud who pled our case to the symphony,” Zilka said. “I think it cost us $10,000 that first year.”
Over the years, the festival has gained in notoriety while still maintaining its commitment as a free, family-friendly draw. Neighbors whose homes sit near the park joke that they can lounge on their back porch and hear Grammy nominees and winners, live at no cost.
“When we had Robert Cray here a few years ago, I got calls from people who were here from out of town, asking where they could get tickets,” said current FOPP Vice President Dave Himebaugh. “They just couldn’t believe that it was free.”
This year’s Summer Festival kicks off July 3 with a screening of “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” at Pavillon Park, starting at dusk. The night after, The Fourth of July Concert will feature the Big Band sounds of headliner Tuxedo Junction with its moniker borrowed from a Glenn Miller song title. Fireworks sponsored by the city of Liberty Lake will follow the music.
Himebaugh said FOPP “saved some money this year by not going with any national acts.” For years, the Holiday Ball at the Davenport Hotel raised critical funds for the festival. With that event shelved, FOPP has been discussing funding scenarios with the city of Liberty Lake, a sponsor of the festival along with STCU and Liberty Lake Kiwanis.
“The city has been very supportive,” Himebaugh said. “We’re still finalizing the funding for the symphony concert.”
In 2007, FOPP rallied to preserve the festival with no deletions despite cancellation of the Holiday Ball the previous December due to scheduling conflicts at the Davenport. Greenstone Homes and surplus funds in the FOPP coffers saved the day.
Debuting this year will be the Liberty Lake Throw Down, set for Aug. 24 at Orchard Park, a new greenspace in the River District that will open in mid-June. Himebaugh said the tournament – featuring the beanbag toss game of cornhole – will generate funds for the festival and consist of registered teams competing for nearly $1,800 in cash prizes.
For the first time since 2004, the symphony’s performance will not include conductor Eckart Preu, who retired after the most recent season and bid a fond farewell to the Pavillion Park crowd last year.
Other favorites returning this summer include the Liberty Lake Loop run (July 13), Montana Shakespeare in the Park (July 28) and the ever-popular and refreshingly affordable park concessions courtesy of Liberty Lake Kiwanis.
“It takes a lot of work to put this on,” said Himebaugh who has been part FOPP since 2004. “It’s getting up Saturday morning and being there all day – but it’s awesome.”
22nd annual Friends of Pavillion Park Summer Festival Schedule
- July 3 – “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” – Dusk at Pavillion Park
- July 4 – The Fourth of July Concert with Twenty Dollar Bill, The Rub and Tuxedo Junction, followed by fireworks – 6 p.m., Pavillion Park
- July 6 – “Ralph Breaks the Internet” – Dusk at Half Moon Park
- July 13 – 22nd annual Liberty Lake Loop – 8 a.m., Pavillion Park
- July 13 – “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” – Dusk at Pavillion Park
- July 20 – “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse” – Dusk at Pavillion Park
- July 27 – “The Kid Who Would Be King” – Dusk at Pavillion Park
- July 28 – Shakespeare in the Park – “The Merry Wives of Windsor” – 5 p.m. at Pavillion Park
- Aug. 2 – Barefoot in the Park Weekend – Concert featuring Cover 2 Cover – 6-9 p.m., Pavillion Park
- Aug. 3 – Barefoot in the Park Weekend – Concert featuring Angela Marie Project – 6-9 p.m., Pavillion Park
- Aug. 10 – “The Incredibles 2” – Dusk at Pavillion Park
- Aug. 16 – “Lego Movie 2” – Dusk at River Rock Park
- Aug. 17 – “Mary Poppins Returns” – Dusk at Pavillion Park
- Aug. 24 – Liberty Lake Throw Down – 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. – Orchard Park
- Aug. 30 – “Black Panther” – Dusk at Pavillion Park
- Aug. 31 – The Spokane Symphony Lud Kramer Memorial Concert, followed by fireworks presented by the city of Liberty Lake – 6 p.m., Pavillion Park.
For more information, visit www.PavillionPark.org.