“It has to be an experience,” Robert Sandidge said time and time again of the Subaru Summer Concert Series. The series is in its third year, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Wenatchee’s Ohme Gardens. The experience is one Sandidge believes few will forget.
Those in attendance take the winding road to the Ohme Gardens gates just as daylight begins to wane. After offering up their tickets, they’ll gain access to the Gardens, a lush, fir-scented sanctuary of shade several degrees cooler than the valley it overlooks, and, following the stone path past a hidden pool, they’ll emerge from the trees at a natural balcony of granite, basalt, and wildflowers supporting a stage.
That’s where the excitement is: over the course of five weeks, five performers will take the stage as the sun dissolves into the horizon.
“What’s better than sitting at the gardens and seeing that crimson sunset behind the artists with a backdrop of the Wenatchee Valley and that dropoff into infinity?” Sandidge asked. Sandidge is volunteering to co-produce the event with his wife, Rio, under RLS Productons. “And it’s all for a good cause — what’s better than that?”
Scott Cossu, part of the Scott Cossu Trio playing tonight, has toured in Europe, South America and Asia as a well-known New Age pianist with the Windham Hill label.
“My type of music is very interesting, I’ve come up with a title for it finally,” Cossu said. “I’m equally influenced by Chopin and Pink Floyd, so I call my music— of course I’m kidding, but I keep a very serious face— I call it Heavy Mental.”
It’s that same laid-back, humorous style Cossu hopes his Trio will bring to the gardens.
“We’re hoping to get people feeling very relaxed and maybe moving around a bit,” he said. “I’m hoping we’ll get a nice crowd there to have a good time with us.”
Missing from the line-up this year is Brian Ohme, grandson of the founder of the gardens and professional musician, who has played every year until now. This year he made what he called a “tough choice,” and chose to focus on work and the production of his new album, which he hopes to release next spring.
Ohme grew up on the gardens when they were owned by his grandparents, and eventually, his father.
“It’s very emotional— that’s where I learned to walk, you know? That’s where I learned to be a human being. The place was always magical to me,” he said. “To perform in the gardens— the birthplace of my imagination — it’s just the most fulfulling thing I can imagine.” he said. He has a lifetime pass to the gardens, and visits frequently. When ownership changed, from the Ohme family to Chelan County, the uses of the gardens did as well. The gardens saw an increase in weddings and private events, and now live music.
“I think he would have loved it, but I don’t think he ever would have,” Ohme said, when asked if he thought his father would have ever envisioned live music at the gardens. “He wanted to have it as perfect as he could.”
Under his father’s ownership, wedding guests weren’t allowed high heels, chairs or anything that could harm the gardens — or the way other people experienced them. Yet, he says these events keep the gardens viable, and “that’s a sacrifice worth making.”
While Ohme has his hands full, plenty of local talent will be performing, including The Wenatchee Swingin’ Big Band, Campbell Road, OK*2*Botay and Queens of Seven. None of the bands will be playing in the Wenatchee Valley area for three weeks before or after their performance at the gardens, making their performance a unique opportunity this month. Sandidge also noted that, apart from private events like weddings, this series is the only live music event at the gardens. Through marketing and sponsorship this year, Sandidge expects a marked increase in attendance.
“Ohme Gardens is a diamond in the rough … it’s been undiscovered. Even a lot of people in Wenatchee have never been there,” Sandidge said. “It has the potential of being a phenomenal performance location.”
With any luck, the revenue from the concert series will be put back into the gardens to make that potential a reality — a reality filled with crowd-drawing light shows and a stage that will stretch out over the valley by night.
“The funds raised from the concerts will go towards infrastructure improvement, such as signage, lighting, benches, event props, etcetera. Just making improvements for the grounds and for future events,” said Ohme Gardens manager Mike Short. “We want to offer this venue to the community to have events like this but it’s got to be worth it.”
Regardless of the additions, Sandidge stresses the need to ensure that, by day, the gardens remain as natural as ever. The performances can’t take away from the venues biggest asset: its beauty.
“The footprint’s here, all we’ve got to do is build the infrastructure. We don’t have to build a garden, it’s already here,” Sandidge said. “Once folks have been here one time and seen the show they return.”
If you go
What: Subaru Summer Concert Series
When: July 11–Aug. 8
Where: Ohme Gardens, Wenatchee
Cost: $12 general admission, $9 season pass holders, half price for kids ages 6–17
Concert Series Schedule
July 11: Scott Cossu Trio
July 18: Queens of Seven
July 26: OK*2*Botay
August 1: Campbell Road
August 8: The Wenatchee Swingin’ Big Band