Ava Lazur, 7, and her siblings danced and popped bubbles while her parents, Emily and John Lazur, lounged on a picnic blanket where they waited for Orquesta Akokan on Tuesday night for the kickoff of Music on the Half Shell concert series at Nichols Band Shell at Stewart Park.

“I get to dance and do cartwheels, and it sounds good,” Ava said.

Emily Lazur said Ava started asking about the annual concert series on the last day of school.

“She knows on the last day of school, Music on the Half Shell is coming,” Lazur said. “We hope to keep coming for years and years. They’re always good picks. You can never go wrong. It opens you up to different kinds of music.”

The eight-week series started Tuesday with the Cuban mambo band, which was a big lure for friends Craig Einhorn and Adam Kreindel from Eugene.

“I love international flavors of all kinds,” Kreindel said. “I love the diversity. This feels like community, what the backbone of what America was built on. The community is getting together and it’s not about capitalism.”

Einhorn plays classical guitar and lived in Argentina for six years. He has been coming to a few concerts every year for about 12 years.

“Music is a higher level of communication,” Einhorn said. “We are all experiencing this music together and it unites the community. Music communicates things we can’t communicate with words. It’s a feeling that we’re all experiencing simultaneously. Politics will divide the country, music will unite the country.”

The high energy mambo music kept people like Katie Cohen from Azalea dancing with her hula hoops that she willingly shared with anyone who asked.

“I am spreading the hoop love,” Cohen said. “They’ve got a great dance rhythm and great energy. Getting to hoop with live music is just incredible.”

She only got to go to two concerts last year, but is planning on coming to all eight concerts this year.

“I love the Half Shell and I plan on being here every week with hoops for anyone who wants to hoop jam,” Cohen said. “It obviously brings a lot of happiness to a lot of people here.”

The Music on the Half Shell series will be at 7 p.m. every Tuesday until Aug. 6. The Bill Frisell Trio will take the stage next week.

Janelle Polcyn can be reached at jpolcyn@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4204. Or follow her on Twitter @JanellePolcyn.

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Janelle Polcyn is a reporter at The News-Review, graduated from the University of Texas, and is a podcast enthusiast.

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