Pavilion events to liven Old Town

A little slice of Mayberry and summers long forgotten may be closer than either Manassas or Prince William County residents, saddled with lengthy commutes and mired in increasingly congested roadways, realize.

Rink Management Services, the managing group of the Loy E. Harris Pavilion in Old Town Manassas, unveiled two new summer concert series to be held at the year-old facility on the corner of West and Center streets at a press conference Thursday. The pavilion is considered a cornerstone to community efforts to revitalize the once beleaguered district, not even treading water 15 years ago.

“We’re trying to create a sense of community, a gathering place,” RMS President Tom Hillgrove said. “We want to give people a reason to come downtown.”

Confessing to having visions of creating a Mayberry-like ambience dancing in their heads, RMS General Manager Linda Robertson announced that every Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. beginning next week, Harris Pavilion will play host to the “Wednesdays Lunch at the Pavilion.”

The 16-week entertainment series, organizers said, will give area workers an opportunity to flee their desks and break rooms during their lunch hours and enjoy the trappings of Old Town while also giving exposure to local bands.

Running until the end of September, the free concerts will feature an eclectic mix of professional bands from Manassas and elsewhere in Northern Virginia with musical stylings ranging from jazz to ’50s-infused “western bop.”

Eleven Old Town restaurants will also give a 10-percent discount to concert-goers who call in their orders in advance. For faster service, Robertson said participating eateries will make available ready-made Pavilion box lunches.

The second series, “Summertime Ice Cream Socials at the Harris Pavilion,” will begin with a performance by the Manassas Choral from 3 to 4 p.m. Sunday. A different local choir or band will perform at the pavilion every Sunday afternoon for the remainder of the month.

At the concerts, RMS will provide free ice cream, adding to what business and community members characterize as a growing list of reasons to explore Old Town.

“An ice cream social on Sunday for free,” said Joanne Wunderly, owner of The Things I Love, “you can’t get much better than that.”

Members of the business community are nearly universal in their appreciation of the past concerts’ and series’ success in drawing business to the district where less than two decades ago empty storefronts stood. These latest concert series, community members agree, should only serve to introduce more people to Old Town, which has now set its sights on emulating other successfully revitalized communities like Alexandria.

“It’s good for all of Old Town,” said Julie Mack, the assistant manager at RW Books across from the pavilion. “It may not necessarily draw customers but they will see we’re here and maybe they’ll come back.”

The Brentsville Band and Chorus is performing today at noon at the pavilion.