Rockin’ Summer: The Arts in the Park summer concert series

Nine performances will be held at the Arts in the Park stage in City Park. The performers were selected by owners of The Press, Eric Kleiner and Derek Richards, and will be announced soon. (Kira Bishop | Collegian Media Group)

Editor’s note: In the print edition and original online edition, one of Eric Kleiner’s quotes (“For Juneteenth they are bringing in a national act”) was not credited to him. This has been fixed in the online edition, and we apologize for not accrediting him and the confusion it may have caused.

As warm weather arrives, the excitement of summer is fresh in the air and new entertainment is on the horizon. Arts in the Park, a longstanding Manhattan Department of Parks and Recreation program, is partnering with The Press to bring nine performances to City Park this summer. 

Chris Curtis, recreation superintendent for parks and recreation, said Arts in the Park has been around for 40 years. 

“It is a summer concert series intended to bring people and families out to City Park in the summer to enjoy free music,” Curtis said. “This year, we are hoping to bring food vendors to add to the overall experience.”

The Press is Manhattan’s newest up-and-coming concert venue, and the owners, Derek Richards and Eric Kleiner, are excited about the opportunity to partner with the city for Arts in the Park 2023. 

“Arts in the Park is probably going to be a little bit different,” Kleiner said. “We are trying to make it more … of like real acts that are touring right now that would attract more demographics to Arts in the Park. We are looking at bringing different entertainment things like a bar out there, just doing things that haven’t happened with the program. It has usually been pretty low key.”

Kleiner said the Arts in the Park events will run from the first weekend of June to the last weekend in July.

“For Juneteenth they are bringing in a national act,” Kleiner said. “One of the Arts in the Parks weekends will be incorporated with Mid Fest. The full lineup for Arts in the Park will be released really soon.”

Curtis said parks and recreation saw this year’s Arts in the Park program as a chance to collaborate with an experienced and connected external organization, such as Richards and Kleiner.

“Eric … he has the tie-ins, and he is in a band,” Curtis said. “He has got the contacts. The other side of it, sometimes the city staff isn’t as effective at securing sponsorships. Sometimes, being the city, people are reluctant to give money to the city, give money to the government, so we thought that may be another area where somebody that is in the industry and has those connections might be more successful.”

In addition to their connections, Richards and Kleiner intend to infuse the event with a renewed energy and draw a larger crowd to the area.

“A lot of times in Manhattan it is either country or rock,” Kleiner said. “We are trying to bring everything in, even like hip-hop. Just trying to … bring more events to the student population; we are just trying to bring people out for events.”

Natassja Norwood, junior at Kansas State and year-round resident of Manhattan said she would be interested in attending some of the events. 

“I think this is a cool move, because for a lot of the students that do stay, they wouldn’t [normally] want to go,” Norwood said. “When it comes to the culture of art and music here in Manhattan, we are so behind. It would offer a fresh, new perspective to people here.”

Curtis thinks the partnership will ultimately bring growth to the program. 

“If we can create that buzz that maybe had not been present in other years, then I think the citizens of Manhattan will benefit by having something bigger and better and making it more of a festival setting without taking away from the family-oriented feel of the event,” Curtis said. “I do see it growing. By having this partnership, I think that is very possible.”