BUZZ CRONQUIST of Ashtabula (right) and a member of the Pleasant Street Dixieland Band perform Sunday at Walnut Beach in Ashtabula.

ASHTABULA - - The peppy sound of Dixieland mixed with the soft sound of Lake Erie Sunday afternoon as the Big Bands on the Beach concert series returned to Walnut Beach.

"This is a very nice crowd, as nice as ever. Everyone is here to party," concert organizer Timothy Kalil said. "I think everyone is happy to get out into the sunshine again."

The audience brought their own lawn chairs and sun shade as Buzz Cronquist and the Pleasant Street Dixieland Band jazzed their way through the concert.

The Rev. Robert Bonnog of Mother of Sorrows Church gave the first "Blessing of the Bands," Lakeside High School Choir Director Andrea Tredent sang "The Star Spangled Banner" and Boy Scout Troop 52 raised the American flag before the concert. Lakeside High School students performed a medley of songs from the musical "Grease" during intermission.

"We are starting to see a lot of community involvement in the concert series. People want to be a part of this. They want to help and participate and I am very excited about that," Kalil said.

Kalil said he knew the concert series would grow, but is amazed at how fast the events caught on.

"We just keep adding more and more to the concerts. It just keeps growing. There is more of an effort this year to book local bands to boost local interest even more," he said.

The first concert was like a reunion, Kalil said.

"I see a lot of familiar faces of people who are back from last year, but I see a lot of new faces, too," he said.

The Big Bands on the Beach concert series, which is free to the public, continues July 7 at 6 p.m. and will feature the Ashtabula Area Orchestra, a patriotic musical selection and a fireworks display at 10 p.m. The Dan Zola Big Band will play July 15 at 4 p.m. with guest master of ceremonies Sen. Capri Cafaro. The Don Burns Big Band will play Aug. 12 at 4 p.m. with guest master of ceremonies WJET-TV anchor Karla Mullinax. The series will conclude Sept. 9 with the Tony Esposito Big Band beginning at 4 p.m. with guest master of ceremonies Ashtabula City Manager Tony Cantagallo.

- - MARGIE TRAX PAGE - Staff Writer

Star Beacon Print Edition: 6/18/2007

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