Kimmie Horne Concert: A Special Night in Oak Park

Kimmie Horne Concert: A Special Night in Oak Park

By Cheryl Weiss

A music-loving crowd of over 500 from around the Metro Detroit area gathered at Oak Park’s Shepherd Park to enjoy Kimmie Horne’s blend of jazz and rhythm and blues in the final concert for the Music in the Park series on July 27, 2017.  It was a special evening for many people, for many reasons.

It had been many years since Horne performed in Oak Park, and news of her concert spread around the area.  Former Oak Park residents returned to enjoy her music, and current Oak Parkers invited friends and family to join them, some guests coming from an hour or more away.  Horne’s soulful music flowed in the warm summer evening; the audience smiled, danced, and sang along.   “Turn and say hey to someone. We’re all family here,” Kimmie Horne encouraged from the stage.  And they did, greeting each other with genuine warmth, laughter, and sometimes hugs.

It was also a special evening for Horne and her family, as it was her mother’s 76th birthday, and she was introduced to the audience and wished a very happy birthday.

Horne, a Detroit native, and great-niece of Lena Horne, travels around the United States as well as to Asia and Europe, so having her perform in Oak Park again was a much-anticipated special treat for the community.

“Oak Park is back!” was the refrain heard repeatedly throughout the evening .  For decades, Music in the Park was a staple summer event in Oak Park.  Then, when budget cuts had to be made, the concerts were eliminated for a while.  When they were brought back, residents were glad, and attended the concerts, but this summer attendance has been much higher than previous years.  A comment noted by residents during Horne’s concert was that there seemed to be more people at the Kimmie Horne concert than there have been at any Music in the Park concert since the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Recreation Director Laurie Stasiak said, “It’s nice to see the community coming out together and taking advantage of the concerts we have for them.”  Rhonda Johns has been a resident of Oak Park for over 20 years, and enjoyed the concerts this summer.  “I’m glad they brought it back,” she said.

Everett McArn brought his dog, Boogie, and Mark Henton brought Austin, his dog.  They came all four weeks to the concerts this summer because they “enjoy the sound and it’s a nice venue –we really appreciate it.”  Laurita Shelton of Southfield also attended each of this summer’s concerts.

Rod Bryant of Oak Park not only came for the concert; he brought his Bid Whist group to join him.  They had quite the set up!  He brought a barbecue grill, food to put on the grill, playing cards, a card table, and chairs, so they enjoyed a good meal and had a card game going on while they listened to Kimmie Horne.   “We have good friends, music, and a beautiful afternoon, “said his friend Audry Hawkins of Clinton Township.

Many families took advantage of the great music and perfect weather to spend some time together.  Three generations of one family attended, including adorable two year old twins Ayla and Aliyah Robinson, who danced along with the music.  They were there with Mom Sterling Bowman, and are new Oak Park residents.   Their Grandpa, Stan Randall, has been an Oak Park resident for 40 years, and he invited them all to come to the park.

During the concert, Horne interacted with the audience, singing with them, speaking to them, and making them a special part of the evening.  The most powerful, and most touching moment, however, was when she went over to Tuskegee Airman Alexander Jefferson.  He is 95 years old, enjoys Kimmie Horne’s concerts, and attended with a group of family and other Tuskegee Airmen. He has met Horne before, and according to his granddaughter Earnestine Lavergne, since he will be out of town during Horne’s upcoming Jazz Festival, they definitely wanted to attend this concert.  Horne came down from the stage singing, approached Jefferson, introduced him to the audience, and he stood up to greet the crowd.  Then they shared the microphone and sang together in a touching few moments that brought tears to the eyes.

On her Facebook page, after the concert, Horne posted, “Thank You Oak Park for being an AMAZING audience.”   For many reasons, the final 2017 Oak Park Concert in the Park was a special one.

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