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New Redondo Budget Silences Concert Series

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Redondo Beach’s summer Concert in the Park series will end Wednesday on a sour note. But the note will come from the city Parks and Recreation Department, not the musicians.

After seven years, the series of eight or nine free Veterans Park concerts is being canceled because of city budget woes. An average of 300 people a week have turned out for the music with an ocean backdrop.

“We were looking for areas where we could reduce the budget, and the feeling was that this really only caters to a select few,” said Steve Bonnell, who supervises the concert series. “We have other programs that are a lot broader and reach more residents.”

In all, the City Council trimmed spending by $1.8 million before adopting a 1991-92 budget of $56.8 million. Cuts followed a warning by City Manager William Kirchhoff that Redondo Beach was facing future deficits because of revenue declines in a slumping local economy.

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The recreation budget was reduced by $145,000 to $2.2 million and included not only elimination of the concerts, but increased fees for recreation classes and a general reduction in staff and supplies.

If department officials thought shelving the concerts would cause the least pain, that sentiment was not shared by some who turned out Wednesday evening to hear country singer Nikki Hornsby and The Rangers band. They drew more than 500 people--the largest crowd of the summer.

“They could cut in other areas that don’t affect the community so much,” said Deena Sprague, who was enjoying a preconcert picnic with her husband, Steve, and their two young sons. The Spragues have been concert-goers since moving to the city five years ago.

“It’s a good family thing to do,” she said. “It’s fun to go to the pier afterward, and let the kids play in the park. Kids stand up and dance to the music.”

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Carson resident Claire Dors, a concert-goer since the series began, was equally disappointed. “It’s a beautiful spot, you see the boats and all ages enjoy it. It’s a loss whenever you cut free entertainment because, with unemployment the way it is, some can’t afford to pay for it.”

The concerts, which have cost between $5,000 and $6,000 a summer to produce, were started to make use of the park’s band shell and to give Redondo Beach residents a summer evening activity, said Dave Buckland, who has booked talent for the series from the beginning.

“It’s easy for the locals. They come home, do what they do to get food and come down here,” he said.

The musical mix has included country-Western, jazz, folk, Latin rhythms, and nostalgic favorites from the 1930s through 1960s.

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Recreation officials said the concert series was cut to save such higher priority activities as an after-school recreation program for children and a variety of classes, from karate to sailing.

“My philosophy was to reduce services that would have the least impact on the greatest number of people in the community,” said recreation director Robert Atkinson. He called the concerts a “good, successful” program, but added, “When you’ve got to make a choice, there’s no way around it.”

Said Buckland: “Deep in my soul, I love to do this, to look out and see all the people enjoying themselves, being a community. It’ll be a loss not to have this. There are a lot of regulars who are here no matter what goes on.”


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