Dark clouds and a noticeable chill came Wednesday, a reversal from the week’s generally sunny weather. The wind overturned signs and shook boughs, but none of the natural elements dissuaded one young musician from performing.
Henry Toungate, 9, spiffily dressed in a suit, cap and bowtie, strums his guitar next to the distinctive Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle on Garland and Post. Many of the restaurants’ patrons stop by for a song and toss a dollar or five into his bucket.
A pair of young boys in the crowd, even younger than Henry, shuffle forward and gingerly place their dollars into the bucket before scurrying back to their mother.
While he may be young, Henry is anything but inexperienced. This is his sixth year performing with his mother, Erin, though by now she is rarely needed. The bowtie has become somewhat of a trademark for the boy. “I dress myself,” he states. When asked whether he feels nervous playing for a crowd, he doesn’t hesitate.
While Henry may be the most endearing, he is far from the only local musician braving the weather Wednesday. More than a dozen, a similar turnout to the main downtown location, have appeared this day with all manner of instruments in tow.
A good portion of those instruments are homemade, including a ukelele constructed from a tea box and dog bowl, and handcrafted guitars played by a group of six who dub themselves the Cigar Box Guitar Slingers, led by instructor Doug Thorsvik.
The Garland Avenue location of Street Music Week has been active for 11 years now and, alongside downtown and Coeur d’Alene, is one of the three locations of this weeklong fundraiser to benefit Second Harvest food bank. Julie Shepard is its organizer. She isn’t fazed by mediocre weather. “We’ve actually got more people today,” she says, “foot traffic is down a little, but not by much.”
Garland’s goal for this year is $2,000, which they are currently on track to reach by Friday to augment the event’s contribution to Second Harvest.
“It’s great for the community; it gets people out,” Shepard says. This holds true for the musicians as much as onlookers.
Walt Gilbert, a guitarist with a powerful voice, is retired. He picked up guitar as a way to pass the time and has now become a regular at this gathering, with his hat covered in badges representing years of attendance. Some musicians wander, watching others play and offering words of encouragement. “The problem with playing your own instrument is you don’t get to watch others,” one laments.
The event continues Thursday and Friday.