The 38th Royal Fireworks Concert made its return last night after a two-year absence and attendees hoped it would spark a renaissance for the Spokane arts.
“We’ve been to all of them since the first one,” said Marsha Feller, who attended last night with her husband, Ron. “We were kind of brokenhearted when they couldn’t do it.”
The Fellers recalled the push for more concerts, exhibits and community creativity after Expo ’74. It’s something that would be great to see happen again, Ron Feller said.
“The park is a place for all the arts for all the people on days like this,” Ron Feller said. “It’s such a wonderful feeling in the park.”
The concert was canceled the last year due to funding issues and construction in Riverfront Park. Ahead of Sunday’s event, enthusiasts lined up behind the Spokane Convention Center in lawn chairs, many reading books to pass the time.
Judy Beane was one of the waiting readers, who was “very disappointed” at the event’s previous cancellations but is “quite happy to see it come back.”
“It’s the combination of music with the fireworks” that makes the concert unique, Beane said.
To start the event, dancers from the Spokane Ballet Studio performed in the Lilac Bowl ahead of music by the Royal Band.
Sara Donally has choreographed dancers for the concert for 18 years. Two of the performers this year, Jenika Staben, 18, and Josie Stenzel, 17, felt their performance went well.
“It’s pretty laid-back because it’s outside,” Staben said.
However, dancing outside on the grass does come with challenges, the pair said.
“It’s definitely slippery and uneven,” Stenzel explained.
A crew of young toddlers sat surprisingly still as they watched the ballerinas dance. Stenzel and Staben, who have both been dancing for most of their lives, recall when they were that age.
“We were all there once,” Staben said.
It’s exciting to set the example for them, Stenzel added.
The concert began and the lights dimmed. Halfway through, TV host and author Richard Bangs narrated a famous speech by Chief Seattle while the Royal Band played William Billings’ “When Jesus Wept.”
Chief Seattle gave the speech in 1854 during the concession of Native lands to settlers.
From a floating stage, the 60-person band performed George Frideric Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks” with a choreographed fireworks show lighting the night sky in the background.
The lengthy overture built tension as the audience anticipated the fireworks.
The crowd reacted with applause and cheers as the first fireworks lit up the sky in time with the music.
“It was one of those ‘Wait for it, wait for it’ type of things,” said Elisabeth Dos Remedios.
People kept leaving and it felt like they were going to miss the best part, said Dos Remedios.
“It was a beautiful evening,” she said.
She even brought a dog, Lisel, who sat in her lap and watched the fireworks with everyone else, she said.
Food trucks in the Lilac Bowl served concertgoers everything from pizza to popcorn.
The event was put on by the nonprofit Spokane Historic Concerts and was directed by David Dutton.
Editors note: This story was changed on July 30, 2019 to correct the spelling of Richard Bangs.
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