Friday, July 23, 2010

A Perfect Evening in "Riggs" Park

Every so often in our lives, we experience a moment that we know will stay with us forever.  Last night I had one of those moments.

It was after I'd given my presentation on my great-grandfather, G. Oliver Riggs (insert huge sigh of relief here), and had handed the microphone to my dad, William.

Here I am explaining G. Oliver's history with Barden Park (originally called Central Park) and the St. Cloud Municipal Band.
Dad talked about what it had meant to him to play in the St. Cloud Municipal Band for four years, after only intending to play one concert in Barden Park.  He talked about how he, his brother Bob and sister Dana had lived within a block of the park, next door to Dr. Lewis (brother of author Sinclair Lewis), whose house is now the Alumni House.  The park wasn't Barden to them, he explained, it was their park, where they played as kids and attended band concerts.  It's the park he cut across on his way to classes at St. Cloud State University, where my grandfather Ronald directed the college band and was a political science professor for many years.

My dad, William, with his sister Dana and brother Bob.
Then came the moment: Dad took out G. Oliver's cornet and played "Danny Boy," also known as "Air from County Derry."  As the sweet, clear notes hung in the air, all I could think was how fortunate I felt to be there, hearing my dad pay tribute to his grandfather in the park that holds so many Riggs family memories.

I was so caught up in the moment, in fact, that it didn't occur to me until later that I should have taken a picture of him, playing the same Conn horn that G. Oliver gave to him when he was a kid, and that my dad played for many years before switching to trumpet.  Thankfully, my cousin Kristina videotaped the entire presentation, so our great-granddaughters and other descendants can one day can enjoy it, too.

Dad said afterward, self-deprecatingly, that G. Oliver would have advised him to "woodshed" the piece, meaning, to practice it more, but I think he nailed it with sincerity and grace.

After the presentation, the 20 Riggs family members in attendance enjoyed the band music, each other's company and the refreshing root beer and orange floats served at the concert.  And in a nod to the tradition (no longer observed) of honking car horns after each song, my aunt Dana and uncle Bob set off the panic buttons on their car alarms, letting the horns honk for a minute, before we departed the park with fond new memories.

The city may call it Barden Park, but I don't believe it.  It will always be Riggs Park to me.

We had a great showing of 20 family members – spanning three generations – at the concert Thursday evening.
G. Oliver with four great-great granddaughters.
Seb samples the orange float.
G. Oliver with four great-great grandsons.
A crowd of about 200 people showed up for the band concert.
The Barden Park Committee has restored the grounds and the granite bandstand.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I wish I could have been there!
    Thanks for sharing your story with us - almost as good as being there :)