by Marty Demarest

Here in the Inland Northwest, natural settings are abundant. They surround us, with the Rocky Mountains yielding the sun in the morning, and the more distant Cascades receiving it at night. And on a more controlled level, we surround natural spaces, whether it's in the form of wilderness not yet tamed by rapidly inflating communities, or the multitude of parks ensconced within the cities.

It's appropriate and ironic, then, that so many of our cultural events take place in these natural settings. Art, as its name suggests, is based in the artificial, the crafted. And yet summer evenings in Sandpoint throw the sounds of Mozart up against the mountains and sky, and an evening in Peaceful Valley in Spokane can find the words of poets cast over the river, all without seeming incongruous or awkward. There is, in these moments of juxtaposition, a sense of appropriateness, or at least of aesthetic unity.

Nevertheless, finding out that the town of Liberty Lake has an ongoing summer festival, with movie screenings and regular concerts, can seem a little surprising. Liberty Lake, after all, is a bit incongruous itself. With its preplanned neighborhoods and intricate lawn-care regulations, the community surrounding one of the region's more picturesque and accessible lakes already seems to be making enough of a statement.

And yet, since 1997, the Friends of Pavillion Park have been bringing concerts -- and more recently, films -- to the acres of green grass and trees that surround the park's centerpiece, a pavilion modeled after the early 20th-century Liberty Lake dance pavilion. Perhaps even more important, the concerts and films have been attracting crowds of people from both the Liberty Lake community and elsewhere, numbering near 2,000 at the larger concerts, all for free.

The origins of the Summer Festival at Pavillion Park, like many of the other successful cultural endeavors in this region, lie within the community.

"First of all, the park started at a grassroots level," explains Rand Hatch, who organizes the concerts for the festival. "We had four concerts in 1997, and at that time we didn't have the stage or the pavilion. The next year, the concerts were taken on by the Friends of Pavillion Park, which was also the year that they became an official non-profit organization. They would meet several times a year, and one of the main sources of inspiration for how the Summer Festival grew was seeing things that other communities were doing that worked, and adopting them. Finally, in 1999, they added the pavilion and the stage. And when Jim Frank -- who had started the whole thing by organizing the early concerts himself -- saw that in another city, films were being screened on the side of a building, they decided to design the pavilion with two towers that could hold a screen stretched between them."

Since then, the summer festival has grown considerably, with seven concerts, nine movies, a garden tour, kite day and a fun run filling the weeks this year between early June and early September. The Jim Boyd Band played one Saturday afternoon this July, followed by a screening of the film Smoke Signals at dusk. Recently, the Nelson Brothers performed at the festival on their tour in tribute to their father, Ricky Nelson. The films are similarly diverse, mixing classics like Casablanca and 2001 -- A Space Odyssey with newer favorites like The Princess Bride and Toy Story 2, and surprising choices like the critically acclaimed Taiwanese film Yi yi. This weekend, the festival will include a screening of Planet of the Apes' director Tim Burton's 1989 box-office phenomenon Batman, starting at dusk on Friday, and a dance and concert by X Tango on Saturday night. The final concert, on September 1, will feature the Spokane Symphony and fireworks.

"On average," notes Hatch, "a concert has 70 to 75 percent of the audience from the Liberty Lake/Otis Orchards area. But at a larger concert, like the Nelson Brothers, it's obviously a lot more. People came from Spokane and Canada; they stayed at the hotels. So it's been good to get Spokane people out here to Liberty Lake to see the community."

The Summer Festival continues at Pavillion Park

in Liberty Lake with the following events: Batman on Aug. 10 at dusk; X Tango concert and dance

on Aug. 11 at 7 pm; The Bridge on the River Kwai is on Aug. 17 at dusk;

The Princess Bride is

Aug. 18 at dusk; Yi yi is Aug. 24 at dusk; 2001:

A Space Odyssey is Aug. 25 at dusk, and finally,

a concert with the Spokane Symphony is Sept. 1

at 7 pm. Cost: Free. Call: 455-5860.

Music Finds a Way: The Spokane Symphony @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Jan. 10
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