It's time to pack those lawn chairs and picnic baskets and stake out a patch of grass at Huntington Central Park.
Summer officially opened Wednesday with the solstice. And come Sunday evening, the musicians in the 70-member strong, all-volunteer Huntington Beach Concert Band will strike up a medley as they open the 2012 Summer Concert Series.
Organizers of the 11 concerts, which will be on the sloping lawn behind the Central Library on Sunday nights through Sept. 2, expect an audience of as many as 2,000 to fill the lawn for each of the open-air shows.
Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the community band, which John Mason, the former band director at Marina High School, founded in 1973.
"Music speaks to the soul," said Tom Ripley, who has served as the band's director since May 1977. "Once you've got it in you, you share it with everybody else. Music speaks across all cultures, races, everything."
During its early years, the city of Huntington Beach subsidized the band, but that source of cash dried up with the statewide passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, Ripley noted.
Nowadays the band relies heavily on donations given by concertgoers to defray the costs of paying for shows given at the park by outside groups that also perform in the summertime series.
Huntington's band will play twice during the series, on June 24 and July 29. The lineup of other groups includes the Los Angeles Police Department's Swing Band that plays July 1, followed by the Laguna Concert Band on July 8 and the Swing Cats Big Band on July 15.
The Huntington Beach Concert Band is also are scheduled to play separate concerts at the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum in Yorba Linda on the afternoon of July 1 and at Quaker Gardens, a senior living home in Stanton, on the evening of July 3.
Linda D. Couey, the band's general manager and one of its clarinetists, has played for it since the mid-1980s. She moved to Huntington Beach in 1983 and discovered the band while casting her vote in the June 1984 California primary at the polling site of Marina High, where the band practices.
"I heard this awesome music," she recalled. "I had been noodling around on the clarinet, and it was just music to my ears."
If You Go
What: Huntington Beach Concert Band, first concert of Summer Series
Where: Huntington Central Park, 7111 Talbert Ave.
When: 5 p.m. Sunday
Cost: Free and open to the public