Waterfront Wednesdays coming to Coupeville

— Created May 11, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Shannon Bly

With the backdrop of Penn Cove and the historic Coupeville Wharf behind them, buskers are slated provide live entertainment for the next seven weeks, as part of “Waterfront Wednesdays” in Coupeville’s downtown historic district. Performers will be there from 4 to 5 p.m. each Wednesday through June 29.

The new busking series will provide live entertainment for local residents and visitors who want to venture to downtown Coupeville on Wednesday afternoons, as well as providing an opportunity for artists to perform.

“We kind of envision that people will meander by. It’s less of a concert and more of an open air, adding to the whole experience of being downtown,” said Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association Executive Director, Rainy Simpson.

The new event will test the community’s appetite for mid-week entertainment downtown.

“We surveyed our merchants, and they were really looking for entertainment mid-week, so that’s where this was started. We’re really excited about it – entertainment in a public place brings community together,” said Simpson.

Rain Sigler of Boise, Idaho, is scheduled to perform June 1. Her family is originally from Coupeville, but this will be her first visit to Whidbey.

“What I love about busking, for one, is the fact that it is outdoors and anyone can come listen and partake in the music,” she shared. “Busking, rather than playing an indoor set, feels more like a community event that brings people together.”

Oak Harbor singer and high school student, Danika Kloewer, will play ukulele June 15.

“Busking is a little more personal,” she said. “I love the idea of having the freedom to play/cover songs and entertain people with a little closer interaction.”

The Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association put out a call for entertainment on social media, and easily filled seven busking spots.

“It was neat how it ended up being an eclectic mix on its own, because you never know, you might end up with several [performers] of similar genres,” Simpson said. “We have a wide variety, from ukulele to country folk. Fiddle Chix does a lot of violins and mandolins, there’s a little bit of jazz and some acoustic, so it’s a nice mix.”

In the future, there could be more opportunities for buskers of all kinds, such as jugglers, magicians, plein air artists and other performers.

“We had intended for really buskers of any type of entertainment, it just so happened that everybody happens to be musically related,” said Simpson.

Charles MacDonald will set up his drums at the wharf for the first Waterfront Wednesday on May 18, and recognizes that drumming is traditionally not what one thinks of when busking.

“The drums are not as ‘musical,’ but there is still talent, musicianship, and spectacle to be enjoyed,” he said. “I like, and fear, the solo aspect [of busking].”

The Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association puts on events such as MusselFest, Red Ticket Giveaway, and the Halloween Torchlight Parade. As the pandemic continues to affect large events, Simpson and her team have had to think of creative ways to provide smaller events for the community.

Simpson said they planned for this year’s MusselFest to be a quarter of its usual size, but ended up welcoming many more visitors than expected.

“The data showed it was almost as many people as a pre-pandemic event, though we didn’t plan or advertise for that many,” she said. “The people are hungry for events – so how do we meet that need in a new way, in a fresh way?”

Nancy Oyler has experienced the public’s desire for music and entertainment firsthand. She and her fellow Fiddle Chix got together during the pandemic to play music outdoors at the Deer Lake community lot and have continued to play together ever since.

“Music is magic and should be shared,” said Oyler. “Contrasting sharply with performance halls, the Coupeville Wharf brings music to the street, to the water, to the people. It’s the perfect playground for [us].”

Oyler said the Fiddle Chix will bring their violins and mandolins to Coupeville to play “a flurry of bluegrass, country, and Celtic tunes.”

“[Busking is] a nice entry point for new artists, although we’ve had several who are quite accomplished who have interest to provide entertainment in their own community,” Simpson said of the mix of musicians slated to perform.

Bruce Gallagher, a professional musician who performs with three island groups at clubs, restaurants, wineries, private events and bars, will take to the Coupeville wharf on May 25.

“I have to practice to keep my level up, and [busking] is an opportunity to interact with people and network about music,” he said.

Doug Rorback performs with his band from Anacortes to Bremerton but is always looking for island gigs. He most recently performed at the Meerkerk Gardens Mother’s Day event last Sunday.

“Busking is different from other types of entertaining, as I am up close to and interacting with the audience,” he said. “I have a request sheet of familiar songs and take requests off the sheet, which is a big hit with the audience.”

Simpson and her team hope Waterfront Wednesdays will draw local residents to come down and see what their downtown merchants and restaurants have to offer.

“[Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association]’s mission is to strengthen, promote, and maintain the historic district,” she said. “Really our vision right now is to invite the community in to help with our mission.”

Learn more at coupevillehistoricwaterfront.com.