The flower garden at the Georgia State Botanical Garden was covered in lawn chairs on Tuesday evening, laid out by concertgoers eager to grab a beer and watch the third performance of this summer’s Sunflower concert series.
The wet weather didn’t stop a crowd from gathering—hundreds filled the lawn to watch performances by Mary & the Hot Hotty-Hots and Klezmer Local 42, two local musical groups. Regulars of all ages came with family and friends, some equipped with picnic blankets and baskets, to enjoy a relaxing evening in the garden.
The concert series, sponsored by the Friends of the Georgia State Botanical Garden, takes place every summer. It gives the Athenian community a chance to enjoy local artists in an unconventional setting. The concerts take place one Tuesday per month between the months of June and September.
The Botanical Garden, a public service and outreach unit at the University of Georgia, has hosted the concert series since 2001, when William Tonks, the director of facilities and visitor services, saw the need for a bridge between the Athens music scene and the state garden.
“It occurred to me that all the people I saw at 40 Watt, I never saw in the garden. And all the people I saw in the garden, I never saw. seen at 40 Watt,” Tonks said.
Tonks, who performs locally himself, thought the best way to unite the two communities would be to hold concerts in the gardens. After gaining support from Friends of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, the first series was held in the summer of 2001. This year marks the 21st year of the Sunflower Concert Series, with over 70 performances held since its inception. .
“I just think it’s a real treat for people who wouldn’t normally go downtown to a rock club to see some of the really amazing bands playing here, and vice versa, it’s great to bringing people who never go to the garden into the garden, Tonks says, “It’s really remarkable to be out in the evening in such a beautiful setting.”
Phil and Debbie Kincaid are members of the Friends of the Georgia State Botanical Garden and have attended concerts in the series this year and years past.
Debbie Kincaid sees events as great ways to spend time with her husband and friends.
“It’s a date, plus we like bands,” Debbie Kincaid said. “And we find our friends.”
Virgille Sonon discovered the concert series by passing a sign near the entrance to the gardens with the concert dates indicated. She attended the previous concert in July and decided to attend again.
“[Athens] Being a university town, there isn’t really much to do during the summer, it’s all very centered around the university. So to have that in the summer is really nice, to have something to do, and it’s very family friendly,” Sonon said.
The two bands that played are from Athens. The first act of the evening was Mary & the Hot Hotty-Hots, a hot jazz and swing band who performed several songs from the 1910s, 20s and 30s. The second band to perform, Klezmer Local 42, performed several klezmer songs, a form of traditional Eastern European and Jewish music, and covers of popular songs with their own twist.
The two bands played together twice during the night, filling the small stage and combining their musical styles to create a unique sound.
By the end of the night, dozens of people were dancing on the lawn, forming dance circles or showing their children how to move in rhythm.
“You understand what Klezmer is, it’s about dancing,” said Dan Horowitz, bassist and vocalist for both bands, as he addressed the crowd.
Another concert is planned in this year’s series, which will take place on September 27 and will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Friends of the Georgia State Botanical Garden. More information about the event and ticket prices can be found on the Botanical Garden’s website.