By April Brooks-Dresman
Nothing says San Diego Summer like a Carlsbad TGIF concert in the park: a sunny ocean breeze, green grass, bronzed skin, a sea of Costco’s Tommy Bahama umbrellas, chairs, wagons and coolers, Table in a Bag, smiling faces, picnic food and drinks, raffles, kids laughter, dancing and live music. Carlsbad’s TGIF Concerts in the Parks are a must do every Summer.
In its 34th season, TGIF is a well oiled machine moving about 30,000 concert goers over the course of nine Friday evenings through varied locations and sounds. The series takes you to four of Carlsbad’s parks to enjoy ten bands playing R&B, Soul, Reggae, Salsa, Latin and/or Era music. This smooth operation is thanks to the hard work of many from City Staffers and Departments to a huge army of Volunteers from The Carlsbad Friends of the Arts, the Police Department and many Sponsors.
Music isn’t all you experience here. Purchase opportunity raffle tickets at every concert for a chance to win goodies from local businesses that offer up some very generous and exciting prizes. Buy “must have” festival gear here at discounted prices. I bought my Table in a Bag over ten years ago and use it at every TGIF, festival, and camping excursion I attend. Also you’ll find wine glass holders and the new and exciting GOVERRE colorful silicone/glass/sippy cup top wine glasses. I bought them in four colors. These “to go”, no spill, no break glasses were conceived right here at one of these concerts by two local entrepreneurial gals. Their ingenuity won these ladies the backing of three investors on Shark Tank. You’ll also find yummy food at the vendors tents and catering trucks. Kids will enjoy balloon artists and the Family Open Studios where they, and you, can create art pieces to take home. You will enjoy a safe, open space environment for your family, where your kids can run free like wolves with a pack of other kids, howl with delight and be fiercely protected by watchful eyes all around.
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Let us begin our evening. We unload our car and join the Costco Tommy Bahama Gear (CTBG) Train — hundreds of people armed with umbrellas, oversized chairs, coolers, carry all wagons, rattling its way often uphill and some distance to the venue. (If you don’t wish to join this train, you can take a free shuttle). We enjoy the adventure of this train. Young Explorers patrol volunteers and Police Officers direct us safely across roads, paths and into and through the venue. We find our perfect spot on the grass and set up our Table in a Bag, CTB umbrella and chairs, lay out our potluck cuisine and enjoy a frosty beverage. We toast, feast, laugh, relax and converse. . . and people watch. The music begins, the dancing begins and we people watch some more.
This is my favorite part–watching people outside enjoying our lovely San Diego weather; spending quality time with family and friends; discussing politics, their days, their families; joking and laughing; sharing food and drink and enjoying music and life. There are many memorable moments to take in: Kids on Daddy’s shoulders; Mommies multitasking: pouring a glass of wine with the left hand; feeding baby a bottle with the right; Raffle ticket winners running to claim their prizes; swing dancing; young and old couples in love; kids laughing, dancing, doing gymnastics, playing, fighting and, yes, crying.
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Meltdown hour comes a bit past intermission: a chorus of tears begins, a mass pack up and an exodus equal to about half the CTBG train weaves its way out. We watch without envy, rest and enjoy the extra space and then we head to the dance floor and join the party.
Tonight’s band was Uptown Funk, as the name suggests they play the funky soul beats of Bruno Mars. The massive crowd sang along, danced with their kids, danced as couples on the dance floor or danced to their own drummer. Intermission ushers in the Raffle drawing and echoes of “Winner, winner; chicken dinner” and “It’s me, I won!”. We witness lucky raffle ticket purchasers claiming their loot; goody envelopes full of coupons, gift cards and items from local businesses who donate their services, time or products to support this worthy event.
The music begins again. It’s time to spin out. Tired little people begin to run in circles, rumble and tumble until they expend their last bit of energy and fall into a tearful, whining heap and yell their last battle cries “I don’t want to!”
And it happens: “crack attack!” (we witness at least one at every show), just visible in the space between the back and the seat of the nearby Tommy Bahama chair– a glimpse of someone’s ”butt cleavage”. It receives giggles all around and a post to Facebook and Instagram. You think us cruel? Many snaps were taken by those around; it probably went viral. Remember to pull up your pants.
This is a grand evening out– family, friends, food, drinks, people watching and music– it’s outside and it’s free. Don’t forget to load up all that Tommy Bahama outdoor gear you’ve purchased at Costco. Pack a picnic or lighten your load by visiting the on site catering trucks. Then enjoy a meal and great music on a Friday night in beautiful Carlsbad. . . . and worth repeating, it’s “free!” – all summer long. There are 7 Friday concert evenings remaining this season, so do as this veteran concert goer recommends – click online here https://www.carlsbadca.gov/services/depts/arts/events/tgif/ for a great choice of park venues and music genres, mark your calendar, pack up the car, and take it easy!