Monday marked the beginning of the season for those that attend the Summer Music Festival Series at the Darius Miller Shell at Walnut Hill Park.
Soul Sound Review put on a performance shortened by rain to a large crowd that opened the series. On Tuesday the series had a make-up day as the Eddie Foreman Orchestra performed and on Wednesday another performance took place.
New Britain resident Victoria Gerent said her family comes to as many concerts as they can.
“We try to hit all of them,” Gerent said. “We are very eclectic and like all the music. And, we always sit in the back.”
“We come all the time,” said Ellie Roether. “We like music we know the words too. I have been coming for 3 or 4 years.”
Some fans said they come especially for the polka music.
“I come two or three times a year mostly by bike,” said Al Nelson. “I especially like the polka music.”
Jose Sonsoch described himself as a polka music nut.
“I like the concert and I am a polka fan,” said Hank Kobylarz. “I love the Eddie Foreman Orchestra. I watch them when they are on TV. They are my favorite polka band.”
The series features 18 performances from July through August from 7-9 p.m. Between 200-500 people turnout most evenings sitting on blankets and chairs. Performances are set for Mondays and Wednesdays.
“There are refreshments available for purchase, said Erik Barbieri, Superintendent of Recreation. “Some bands take a break and some play the entire two hours. The beautiful thing is the band shell is completely renovated and it looks really nice. The dance floor was also redone for people who want to cut the rug.”
For about 10 months the City had been giving the shell a $250,000 face lift.
“It has really needed this,” said Bill DeMaio, parks and recreation director.
The wooden stage of the floor dipped and had holes. That was ripped apart. Instead, three feet of stone and 10 inches of concrete now keep the floor steady.
“We also put in all new lights and new walls,” said DeMaio.
Workers also put in the concrete in front of the shell with the words “New Britain Parks and Recreation Department”. It is painted to stand out.
The Darius Miller Music Shell was built in 1939 using funds provided by a testamentary gift in trust of $75,000 by Darius Miller, a Main Street merchant.
Miller died in 1919 as a multi-millionaire. He bequeathed funds to local institutions, including a seventy-five thousand dollar trust to the City of New Britain. He asked that “the income be used and applied under the direction of the Park Committee to best promote the interest, prosperity and objects of Walnut Hill Park.” The Park Board decided to allow the interest in the Miller Fund to accumulate to an amount from which permanent improvements could be built.
Funds for this new project came from the interest of that money from the Darius Miller Trust Fund and were approved by the bank that holds the funds.
The shell is 65 feet wide and 28 feet deep. It is made mostly of stucco and was constructed to the design of Harold Field Kellogg who was the architect for four such structures in the eastern part of the United States patterned after the principles enunciated in the Hollywood Bowl to project the sound in an outdoor environment.
In 1966 the Darius Miller shell was destroyed by fire and rebuilt to the original design. A platform was added in front, for dancing, and a tier of ten rows of seats was built in the slope in front of the shell at this time.
The next performance in the concert series is Caribe Mambo (Latin Music) on July 14. On July 16 will be MassConfusion featuring Motown, R&B, Jazz and Blues.