Title Tracks perform last night at Fort Reno
Title Tracks perform last night at Fort Reno

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In recent years, organizers of the Fort Reno summer concert series haven’t exactly encouraged donations. “Where else can you go and receive things and not be shaken down for money?” lead organizer Amanda MacKaye told me earlier this month, for my cover story on the series’ near-cancellation amid a dispute with the National Park Service. “If we’re in a position to not ask ask ask, why not let it go for as long as we can responsibly can?”

Now it’s time to ask ask ask.

For several years, the series hasn’t actively solicited donations, and benefit shows have become less frequent. Nevertheless, organizers had enough funds to cover the series’ annual budget of about $2,500. “For a long time, we have been existing on donations that were given a long time ago and were very generous,” MacKaye told me.

Now, each summer’s budget could more than double thanks to a new requirement that organizers pay for a Park Service officer to be on hand at each show. (This year’s concerts continue through Thursday, July 31.) While Park Police originally insisted that show planners pay for the full summer’s police presence up front, following a compromise they’re paying one show at a time—-an agreement that may have already saved the series money, since two of this year’s concerts have been rained out.

At last night’s concert, MacKaye addressed the crowd, pointing them to the Fort Reno website and asking people to give if they can. In a note at fortreno.com, she writes:

As everyone knows, the concert series has incurred some unexpected costs this year. The support all of you showed during the past weeks has kept our eyes on the prize…the concerts. Besides being a tradition at this point, the Fort Reno concerts are an important community building event. And in order to keep it going this year and in the future, we are asking you to please consider giving a donation that is comfortable for you.

What might not be known is this: the concert series is almost entirely volunteer. Until this year, the only paid aspects of the event were the portable bathrooms and the sound. Additionally, the concerts run totally on donations, there is no sponsor nor any grants or government funding. For the concert series, “free” has many definitions. Our aim is to provide a free space where parents can bring their children of all ages to enjoy music, blossoming musicians can gain experience playing for an audience and those who work to create the Washington, DC music scene can be free to create.

While the series isn’t a nonprofit organization, it now has a “fiscal sponsorship agreement” with the Washington Peace Center, through which it’s now accepting donations. You can make a (tax-deductable!) donation via this Paypal link, or by sending a check or money order to:

Amanda MacKaye
Fort Reno Summer Concert Series
2215 N. Culpeper St.
Arlington, VA 22207

Photo by Jonathan L. Fischer