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FEST4ALL Make Music Day Gig Harbor: An Enchanting Summer Occassion

Tonya Strickland is the Gig Harbor mom and writer behind Two In Tow & On The Go, a family adventure blog featuring the destinations and hidden gems that make Pierce County great. Tonya and her husband, Bowen, recently moved to Gig Harbor with their children, Clara (8) and Wyatt (6), from California’s Central Coast. Follow along with @two.n.tow on Facebook and Instagram. Because sometimes you just need to get out of the house! Email Tonya: [email protected]

I don’t know whether it was the collective energy of goodhearted people finally able to gather, the airy mix of melodies mingling in the breeze, or the much-anticipated warmth of actual sun on our skin, but Uptown Gig Harbor’s second annual FEST4ALL Make Music Day Gig Harbor on June 21 had the unmistakable feeling of summer

And my family couldn’t be more excited.

Hi, I’m Tonya! A California girl who now calls Gig Harbor home. My introduction to FEST4ALL Make Music Day came through the business of writing and ended with all the warm fuzzies that come from connection and community. Hunker down for a little story:

Just as the heat of the summer solstice topped 70 degrees, my kindergartener, Wyatt, and second-grader, Clara, hopped off the steps of their big yellow school bus, discarding their backpacks at my feet (#momlife) and hungry for a quick snack. Two protein bars, three potty breaks, and one slightly frazzled mommy later, I buckled those crazy kids in with the quick clicks of car seats and off we drove to Uptown Gig Harbor on the promise of enjoying 24 acts performing free concerts on four stages from noon till night.

How FEST4ALL Make Music Day Gig Harbor Began

It was all part of Make Music Day, a global phenomenon that celebrates the natural music-maker in everyone. Born in 1982 (just like me!), the festival began in France when a bunch of cool Europeans lined the streets to play any instrument they could for whoever wanted to listen. The performances weren’t about money or fame, they were about providing free music for the people. Just because. How cool is that?! 

Now, 40 years later, 1,000 cities worldwide host their own Make Music Days every summer solstice. Seattle, Federal Way, and Issaquah also signed up in Washington this year. In Gig Harbor, the spin was to emphasize inclusivity. One whole stage was even dedicated to sound-sensory sensitivity performances at low-volume. Plus, Uptown has ADA access throughout.

Since Clara and Wyatt were in school that day, we’d already missed several performances by the time we arrived to Uptown around 4:45 p.m. 

But we were determined to explore it all. So we meandered through brick-lined breezeways to visit each of the four stages tucked into captivating little corners of musical enchantment throughout the shopping center. 

Wine glasses clinked over plates of mixed greens on the upscale patio of the Green.House Restaurant as date night duos enjoyed the relaxed R&B tunes of United by Music youth mentor Miranda Kitchpanich on the Showcase Stage. 

Then we were off to window shop for future birthday gifts at Teaching Toys Too on our way to the Spotlight Stage. There, several sets of iron bistro chairs turned toward the students of Tarra Winslow’s Con Brio Piano Studio. We were quickly entertained by a young man named Arthur Keast who rightly chose to serenade the crowd with music that could’ve been written for Frank Sinatra. The kids listened to Arthur for an impressive amount of time before they realized we’d stepped into a 10-foot radius of sugar (they have a special sixth sense for this kind of thing, amirite?). So we popped into Ben and Jerry’s to order our requisite chocolate chip cookie dough double scoop on waffle cones (with sprinkles!).

Soon we were on the move again, this time in search of the Front Porch Stage. We found it nestled beneath a charming criss-cross of string lights in the corridor by Fondi Pizzaria (which boasts the best gluten-free hand-tossed dough I’ve ever had) and the delightful Pearl Tea boba shop with its happy yellow awning. This particular area was home to a casual collection of mostly cool older dudes listening to the folk art of Lawrence Lambert & Elaine Dempsey on guitar. The music was groovy, but I couldn’t help but laugh at my little Mr. 6-year-old giving some serious side-eye to a perfectly nice man with a ponytail and a “No Bad Days” T-shirt smiling at Wyatt’s gigantic ice cream cone. Email me at [email protected] with your suggested captions for this classic showdown! 🙂

Funny looks aside, we kept on walkin’ to our fourth and final spot – the Pavillion Stage. The kids and I showed up just in time to see an ehtusiastic crowd gather for the start of Billy Stoops & The Dirt Angels’ amplified country rock set. People in sun hats and sandals lined extra-large umbrella tables at Blue Agave Mexican Grill & Tequila Bar on the Pavilion’s eastern edge. The restaurant’s patio bustled with friends and family, alive with the comforts of chit-chat, cold beer (and probably tequila!), all in the welcomed company of free music. The open layout encouraged festival-goers to settle in with slouchy canvas camp chairs, strollers, and snacks. School-aged children ran up and down the walkways, playful but careful of smaller siblings newly on their feet. And a stylish-looking guy and gal in corresponding grey hues danced with moves way cooler than I can describe. Although, I’m certain I saw a fancy twirl or two.

Meanwhile, I introduced my sticky-faced (but still so cute) children to Uptown’s very own maker of magic, Paula Zenobio; as well as local mother-daughter duo Barbara Hammerman and Amanda Gresham who brought Make Music Day to Gig Harbor. The event was jointly presented by Amanda’s AG360 production company and the Gig Harbor-based nonprofit United by Music North America that she and her mom co-founded to blend neurotypical and neurodiverse musicians to perform nationwide. Hammerman said every production element – from the microphone stands and amplifiers to the actual stage setups – was organized, managed and staffed by United by Music participants in an awe-inspiring dedication to the craft.

Right around the time these lovely ladies very graciously (but also quite unexpectedly … eeek!) asked me to go on stage to talk about my blog, one of our bus stop friends walked over to say hello. Soon, all our kids were chasing, giggling, and making wishes by the fountain. 

As the band seamlessly moved from one song to the next, the children’s laughter rose over cheers from the crowd and I found the moment reminiscent of how organizers said Uptown was the perfect place for FEST4ALL Make Music Day. Not only because it’s run by cool people, but its whole atomosphre carries that certain-special-something. Some inherit vibe packed into the stonework of its quaint promenade of shops, eateries, fountains, and art. Something so charmingly in sync with the festival’s origin story of the French “pouring onto streets, parks, plazas, and porches to share their music,” all those years ago. 

I could easily see what they were talking about. I’d felt it, too. Uptown truly does have a welcoming sense of place. 

So that’s this Gig Habor newbie’s takeaway. That the event, and all of its wonderful array of music-making, created a feeling of community that lingered all around us. In this crazy pandemic world, I’ve realized that’s exactly the type of feeling I’ve really missed. And FEST4ALL Make Music Day sure had it.

Thanks for reading!

Xo,

Tonya
Ps. Make sure to catch FEST4ALL Make Music Day Gig Harbor’s winter edition this holiday season! Find out how YOU can participate in upcoming concert events by emailing [email protected].

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Sincerely,

Uptown Gig Harbor

2 Responses

  1. Such a beautifully written little window into this event! And Love hearing all the little details that make me feel like I was there…although not this time I would love to be there next summer for this.again, such a wonderful way of making me feel happy and warm while reading how delightful it made YOU feel, glad you are getting into the vibes of your new home town.

  2. Hi Kellie,

    Thank you for your reply! Tonya’s blog captured the event perfectly. Do come visit next year!

    Don’t be a stranger here On The Up 🙂

    Sirena

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