For longtime Costa Mesa resident Dan Duenes, nothing signals the beginning of summer quite like the Concerts in the Park series at Fairview Park.
The Westside resident has been attending the free annual concerts with his wife and two children for several years.
"It's fun to get out here with our friends and their families and enjoy music together," he said.
Roughly 2,000 Costa Mesa residents gathered at Fairview Park on Tuesday evening for the first show in the five-part July series.
The Costa Mesa Community Foundation, which raises funds for various programs in the city, has been hosting the event for the past four years. Previously, the series was funded by the city.
When city budget cuts nearly eliminated the concerts in 2010, the foundation stepped in to keep the tradition alive, said foundation board President Lea Lowe.
"People, even neighbors, who don't see each other much tend to reconnect during these concerts," she said. "They can share a picnic, enjoy some music and catch up."
Many families brought lawn chairs, blankets and picnics to secure a spot close to the stage Tuesday night. Others took advantage of the three food trucks' culinary offerings and mingled with friends in the beer garden.
The first concert of the season featured The Answer to Classic Rock, a Southern California band that performs its renditions of a variety of popular rock songs.
As soon as the band began to play, adults and kids made their way to the front of the stage for an impromptu dance party. The dancing continued until the sun began to set on Fairview Park.
Children lined up to have their faces painted by Estancia High School cheerleaders, who donated their time.
Near the face-painting area, Duenes' 5-year-old daughter, Jessie, beamed as a balloon twister handed her a gold-colored dog with a bright-pink tongue that resembled Disney's Pluto.
Across the park, Joyce Flynn and her friend Joan Groff, who have both lived in the city for more than 30 years, set up lawn chairs and ate burgers while enjoying the music. The two have been frequenting the concerts since they began more than a decade ago.
"I like the variety of the music and everyone's energy out here," Flynn said.
If You Go
The concerts run from 5:30 to 7:45 p.m. every Tuesday in July.
The concert schedule is as follows:
July 8: Wreck N Sow, a bluegrass and roots country band
July 15: Ronnie Gutierrez, a Latin jazz performer
July 22: Kenny Sara & The Sounds of New Orleans, a New Orleans jazz band
July 29: Stone Soul, a classic soul and Motown group