In Downs Park, The Shows Will Go On

Spaghetti Dinner Fund-raiser Saves Summer Concert Series

March 03, 1992|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff writer

Spaghetti saved the summer concerts in Downs Memorial Park. Or maybeit was the salad and garlic bread.

One thing's for sure: Local residents and regulars at Cookie's Kitchen on Mountain Road consumed about 400 spaghetti dinners Saturday night at a fund-raiser that nettedsome $4,000 -- enough to keep folk, jazz and big band melodies floating over the Chesapeake Bay one more summer.

Since soon after the Pasadena park on Pinehurst Road opened 10 years ago, hundreds of concert-goers, stargazers and picnickers have gathered Sunday nights at the band shell overlooking the bay. There, they've been entertained by barber shop quartets, military bands and even Hawaiian dancers.

But the popular concert series wasn't immune to Anne Arundel County budget woes. The series, organized by Downs Park rangers, depends on $6,000 in county money each year. Last year, rangers had to make do with only $3,000, by booking some free acts. And in the 1992 budget year, organizers tried to book acts six months in advance but found the county had no money for concerts, said park Superintendent Rick Holt.

Appeals for local business sponsors fizzled until a park ranger eating breakfast at Cookie's -- a neighborhoodrestaurant known for home-style cooking, homemade biscuits and home fries -- mentioned the predicament to owner Ruth Kiser. Kiser tried unsuccessfully to help find sponsors.

When it appeared as though itmight get too late to book performers, Kiser quickly organized the spaghetti dinner for Saturday, a night Cookie's is normally closed.

With the help of about 25 volunteers, including Kiser's staff, park rangers and loyal customers, the 44-seat restaurant served spaghetti to more than 400 people in four hours, charging $6 for adults and $4 for children.

"It was like a madhouse," Kiser said.

Since the restaurant and other local businesses donated all the food, proceeds from the dinner, a bake sale and contributions will go to Friends of Downs Park. The money raised will cover the entire series this year, Holt said.

Though planning started later than usual, organizers arestill shooting for a Memorial Day weekend opening concert. The community's response didn't surprise Kiser.

"We have good customers," she said. "When something comes up, all the customers pitch in to help, which makes this possible."

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