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Fort Reno Park is not the only Washington D.C. park with National Park Service-related drama again this summer.
The NPS has now posted partial summer 2015 schedules for Carter Barron Amphitheatre and Fort Dupont Park after promising full schedules by mid-June. Last year, the NPS waited until late July to announce abbreviated schedules.
This year’s bookings pale in comparison to the vibrant blend of national and local jazz and R&B acts that the NPS has offered in years past. Last year, they attributed the diminished list to construction at Carter Barron, the busy responsibilities of Fort Dupont Park’s Program Manager Kym Elder, and budget constraints. Fort Dupont Park’s posted schedule lists four concert dates by genre, but no specific acts. The posted 2015 Carter Barron schedule largely follows the same small-scale approach of last year: This year includes two Washington Post-sponsored local music shows, the annual end-of-season Blues Society gig, and two to-be-announced events, but not much more.
NPS was late last year in posting bids and awarding contracts at Fort Dupont and Carter Barron, and our sources tell us they’ve done so again. Until 2012, third-party booking and management companies handled the programming for both locations, but the NPS subsequently took on handling Carter Barron itself, while taking a bid from ISOM Global Strategies for Fort Dupont last year. They’ve made no announcements about who is handling the responsibilities this year.
Is this the new normal? Are the days of seeing impressive triple bills and national act headliners just a memory? The NPS has provided little in the way of explanation in recent years, and it has not yet responded to City Paper‘s questions on the matter.
Maybe escalating costs are partly to blame: Former Fort Reno volunteer programmer Beth Baldwin told Washingtonian that the $70 hourly fee per police officer NPS is charging permitted events is “bordering on extortion.” In 2012—the last year the National Artists Corporation handled booking at Fort Dupont with six national acts—the Washington Post reported that the entire season’s costs for everything came to $205,000. That budget included paying for the “the acts, the sound, the lighting, overtime pay for park staff and assistance from the U.S. Park Police.” If NPS has the Congressional pull to get millions of dollars for new turf on the National Mall, despite its budget issues elsewhere, maybe they should try to obtain federal funding for decades-old concert programs on the rest of the parkland they manage in D.C. Alternatively, NPS has had for-profit concert promoters hold events in Carter Barron. In the case of the NPS-controlled National Mall, where outside parties handle the programming, the NPS has imposed new fees and regulations that have sent the Black Family Reunion Celebration, the National Book Festival, and the Solar Decathlon packing, as well as limited the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s ability to use the Mall as it had for forty-eight years.
Carter Barron, tucked under the trees of Rock Creek Park, and Fort Dupont Park’s long lawn have largely sat empty for the last year, and it appears they’ll be mostly empty again this summer. Local acts at Carter Barron in the past have worked to complement a full slate of national act headliners, who drew large crowds. At this point, without answers from the NPS, and without pressure on the NPS from Capitol Hill as well as locals, late starting, small-scale Carter Barron and Fort Dupont concerts may become standard operating procedure.
Carter Barron Amphitheatre Summer 2015 schedule:
July 17—Washington Post Classic Soul Night with locals Mousey Thompson and the James Brown Experience; Skip Mahoney & The Casuals; and William DeVaughn
July 24—Washington Post Reggae Night with locals Monsoon & S.T.O.R.M. Reggae Band; Puma Ptah; and Ras Biruk & Ras Band
August 16—To Be Announced
August 21—15th Annual DC Poetry Festival Honoring Gil Scott-Heron: The music of Gil Scot-Heron, featuring Giacomo Gates. House Band: Steven B and Friends Presented By: Genesis Poets
August 22—To Be Announced, Presented by The Friends Of Carter Barron Foundation of the Performing Arts
August 28—Movie Night: Rear Window (Movie may change due to availability).
August 29—Movie Night: The Wiz (Movies may change due to availability)
September 5—27th Annual DC Blues Festival
(All events are free)
Fort Dupont Park Summer 2015 schedule
July 18—World Music
July 25—Dance & Club Music
August 1—Rhythm & Soul Music
August 8—Jazz in the Park
(All events are free)
Photo courtesy of NPS