BRADENTON -- Where else but a Concert in the Park could you witness a Manatee County School Board member square dance in front of a crowd of 4,000 on a baseball field to the sounds of the Manatee High School Fiddlers.
But there was Julie Aranibar, in her last official assignment as an outgoing school board member, doing an unscripted do-si-do with orchestra director Helene Franco of Nolan Middle School near McKechnie Field's home plate.
The pair couldn't seem to help themselves because the MHS Fiddlers, who may have stolen the show this year, have been practicing nearly every day for two months and have so much foot-stomping, knee-slapping energy that Aranibar and Franco apparently could not resist.
That special moment was all part of the second annual Concert in the Park -- a gathering of 11 local school orchestras at the ballpark to perform non-traditional music.
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"This crowd is twice as big as last year," said Aranibar, who served as emcee.
"Get the word out about how much fun this is," she continued. "Let's fill this place next year."
People in Manatee County apparently love to come out to a ballpark to hear their rough
ly 700 children perform orchestral music.
One was Yukie Kessler who came to listen to her daughter, Amy, 13, play the cello with the Buffalo Creek Middle School orchestra. Buffalo Creek combined with Palmetto High School his year and the two orchestras delivered a stunning rendition of the theme from the film "Ice Castles" and the Top 40 hit "Firework" by Katy Perry.
A far cry from Ludwig van Beethoven.
"This is the first time I have come to the stadium and I wanted to hear my daughter play here," said Kessler, whose 16-year-old daughter, Leah, also is a musician.
Kendall Mackey, a Manatee High School junior and a viola player, said Concert in the Park is different.
"It's a lot of fun," Kendall said. "It's nice to play somewhere that's not a concert hall. More people can come and we also get to hear other schools to see what the competition is."
"Seeing all the kids and families is exciting," said Chloe Hollands, a Manatee High junior violinist. "And we get to do some fun music."
Manatee High School's orchestra performed "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor, "Paint it Black" by the Rolling Stones and "Toss the Feathers" by The Corrs.
The tickets to the event were $10 for an entire family and the funds go to all the orchestras, said David Pope, the orchestra director at Manatee High.
"We used to do this concert in Jake's Auto Garage," Pope said. "This is an extension of that. It's a time when you get to hear every orchestra in town play non-traditional music."
Braden River High School's Legacy Orchestra performed music from "Pirates of the Caribbean" in honor of the Pirates, the Marauders and McKechnie Field. Braden River's Advanced Orchestra did Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA."
Southeast High showed its stuff with "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." The crowd roared for Electa Lee Middle School's "Fiddles on Fire" and for "Dynamite" by Carlos Haile Middle School.
King Middle honored the tuneful poet Leonard Cohen with "Hallelujah" and Dan Nolan Middle School had the crowd on its feet for Coldplay's "Viva La Vida."
Lakewood Ranch High School performed the elegant "Oxford Overture and "Labyrinth" while Braden River Middle School gave the crowd "Crosscurrent" and "Yee Haw!"
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.