Musicians perform in park for annual Fourth of July gathering


As three local musicians performed Tuesday afternoon on the bandstand in the middle of Shields Park in Seymour, people found a shady spot to sit in their foldout chairs, on blankets or at picnic tables.

A few even got up and danced to the beat of the music.

Elsewhere in the park, people had fun at the playground, skated at the skate park and took advantage of half-price admission at Shields Park Pool.

For more than 10 years, Music in the Park has been conducted on the Fourth of July, giving musicians an opportunity to showcase their talent and allowing local residents to hear them and also enjoy a few hours in the park. It’s sponsored by This Old Guitar Music Store and Seymour Parks and Recreation Department.

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While this was the second straight year for Molly Hayes to perform at the event, it was the first time for Jordan Richart and Lela Hendley.

Last year’s show was Hayes’ first time performing in public, so she said she was glad to be asked to sing and play guitar again.

“It’s really fun because you get to play a bunch of different music a lot of people know, but then you can also introduce some new stuff that you know, some more obscure stuff,” said Hayes, who will be a senior at Seymour High School in the fall. “We’re giving back to the community, and that’s always what I like about it.”

Hayes said she started learning guitar about three years ago and began taking lessons with This Old Guitar owner Larry McDonald a year ago.

“He taught me a lot of what I know with guitar, definitely,” Hayes said. “He has helped a lot.”

Events like Music in the Park are good for local musicians to get comfortable with performing, Hayes said.

“It’s cool that we kind of get introduced to the idea of performing,” she said. “It’s not huge venues or anything, but it’s something, and it kind of leads you into doing bigger shows or even going on to do music if that’s what you want to do when you’re older.”

Richart, who has played guitar for 12½ years, said it’s good to have a lot of opportunities locally for musicians to share their talents.

“For the longest time, it seemed that there were not a whole lot of places for younger people to play that were just starting to kind of learn,” he said. “The best way to really learn the guitar, really learn music is to play in front of people.”

Music in the Park is one option, he said.

“Being able to have an event where local people can come and play is huge, especially for the younger ones coming up,” he said. “We are a music community, I think. There are plenty of places to play for local musicians, so to have another one on a major holiday where people are going to gather is awesome, and I’m glad (McDonald) is able to do that.”

Hendley, an incoming freshman at Brownstown Central High School, said Music in the Park was her second time performing at a public event for McDonald. She has spent the past year with him learning how to sing and play guitar.

“Just that I get a chance to sing in front of people because I don’t really do that a lot. It’s kind of terrifying,” she said, smiling.

The more opportunities she gets, though, the more comfortable she becomes, she said. That’s why she liked playing at Music in the Park.

“It brings more people in that normally wouldn’t come to the park,” she said. “My family is from all over, and they came here to see me.”

Performing on the nation’s birthday meant a lot to the performers, too.

Richart said the freedom he appreciates most is freedom of speech.

“My opinion will not be suppressed by any government or anything like that, and there’s a system in place that allows me to do what I want and be free,” Richart said.

“There are people who live in countries that aren’t able to come up here and sing, so to be able to do and say what you want and give your opinion is the greatest,” he said. “Overall, just being able to do what you want to do and say what you want to say is my favorite freedom.”

Hayes also said she values freedom of speech.

“It’s nice because if you have ideas, you don’t have to keep them to yourself,” she said. “It allows you to contribute to the world in so many different ways, having that freedom of speech to give your ideas.”

Hendley said she likes having the freedom to do what she did Tuesday.

“It’s cool that we can just come and sing and do stuff and just be here because a lot of countries don’t get to do that,” she said. “They have to listen to certain music or be a certain way. We just get to be us.”

Richart also liked being able to express his American pride by wearing patriotic socks during Tuesday’s show. His tradition of dressing up for the Fourth of July started a couple of years ago.

“The socks are just the best piece that everybody always compliments,” he said. “In fact, before I came here, I stopped and got a water at the gas station, and the clerk was like, ‘Oh man, I really love your socks.'”

The socks may have even drawn more people to the park, Richart joked.

“I think it’s the major draw,” he said, smiling. “People knew the socks were going to be here.”

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