Big band music filled the summer evening on June 15, calling pedestrians through the double loading dock doors of the Juneau Arts and Culture Center to the Summer Block Party.
It was the first of the season, and Juneau Big Band had the stage, a female vocalist belting out a song. Couples and children danced. Other people listened from the confines of the multi-colored fence designating the beer garden or as they browsed booths from local merchants.
“It’s nice to have a family-friendly event. Everyone feels welcome,” said attendee Rina Soriano.
The Summer Block Parties will happen every Friday through Aug. 17 from 5:30-7 p.m., said Benjamin Brown who is in charge of the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council’s marketing and development. Weather permitting, future Summer Block Parties will take place at the Centennial Hall courtyard; otherwise, they’ll be moved inside the JACC.
“It’s 90 minutes of fun to end the week. It’s a great way to kick off the weekend. It’s family-friendly – there’s a beer garden but that’s a set a side area – and a lot of people do bring their kids. … People like to dance, and when it’s nice out, it’s just wonderful to be out in the sun and to have something to eat and something to drink and listen to some live music and enjoy downtown Juneau,” Brown said of the free event.
Students from the Juneau Fine Arts Camp will perform on June 22, and then on June 29, it’ll be Susu and the Prophets, a local band. Each week, it’ll be a new, local musical group. While not different every week, vendors will also vary over the course of the summer.
Marta Lastufka of Sweet Song Chocolates positioned her table near the double doors across from Salt and Soil Marketplace’s one, and along with her son Ambrose, handed out samples of her homemade spruce tip chocolates out along with her son Ambrose. Lastufka said she had been looking for more venues to sell her products, “to learn the business” since she primarily sold during the Juneau Public Market which happens annually during the holidays. She learned from the JAHC about the Summer Block Parties and now plans to be there over the course of the summer. Pleased, she said she sold to both new and returning customers.
Elizabeth Ouderkirk who has lived around Southeast but now resides in downtown Juneau, said she thought being a vendor at the Summer Block Party would be fun experience. She owns Pepper Bear Studio, creating “nature inspired” jewelry and collage art. When she wasn’t answering questions of customers, she enjoyed her booth vantage point of the main stage.
A brand new face in Juneau is Tiare Maumasi, owner of Deadly Dapper. She sells unique, handcrafted jewelry, some even with butterfly wings, and other accessories. Maumasi, who has been creating jewelry for more than 19 years, had just moved to Juneau two weeks ago from New Orleans and came to the JAHC to help her find her art community. She described the staff as helpful and wound up as a vendor at the Summer Block Parties.
Go to www.jahc.org to keep up with which musicians and vendors will be at upcoming Summer Block Parties.
• Clara Miller is the Capital City Weekly managing editor. She can be reached at email@example.com.