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Enjoy the outdoors with concerts across the region

The Dodd Stadium gates will open Wednesday evening, and the smell of hot dogs, hamburgers and beer will fill the air as the stadium opens once again for some summer entertainment.

It’s not professional minor league baseball. But for families, couples or singles stuck home during this COVID-19 summer, an outdoor summertime concert can provide a relaxing staycation getaway.

Several options for outdoor concerts are available in the region, from top price Misquamicut drive-in-style concerts, to free Rockin’ the Dodd shows at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, to the $10 per person Stonington Vineyards lawn concerts and the free Concerts in the Park at Washington Park in Groton City.

The Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce kicked off its reworked free summer concert series last Wednesday at the Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium, 14 Stott Ave., Norwich. The usual Rock the Docks at Norwich Harbor now is Rockin’ the Dodd. The F & Blues Band led off on July 22.

“I don’t know about you, but it feels good to be out of the house!” F & Blues lead singer Tim Cuff said to the cheers of more than 300 fans. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he added to the sponsors of the concert series that runs on Wednesdays through Aug. 12. “They’re going to be doing this for the next three to four weeks. Come out and support live music!”

Seating is limited to 500 along the first base side of Dodd Stadium, and the band plays from the first base spot on the infield. Admission is free, although attendees must register in advance at www.norwichchamber.com. Fans must wear face masks and sit with at least two vacant seats between families or groups and sit in alternate rows.

One concession stand and the outdoor concourse bar are open. Last week’s opener even featured a brief rain delay. Staff quickly covered the giant speakers with tarps and put up a pop-up tent and the band played on.

Megan and Keith Sherry, their 3-year-old son, Liam, and Megan’s father, David Stanford, all of Waterford, claimed a picnic table on the concourse to enjoy burgers and fries as they listened to the music.

“It feels good,” said Megan Sherry. “They’ve done a nice job limiting the capacity. It feels safe.”

The Dodd Stadium series continues at 6 p.m. Wednesday with the popular swing band Eight to the Bar. Nearly 300 tickets had been reserved as of last week for the concert.

Norwich also will host the 40th annual Tribute to America free concert of patriotic music at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 7 at Chelsea Parade across from Norwich Free Academy. The Waterford Community Band will play at 6:30 p.m. and a color guard presentation and program will begin at 7 p.m., all sponsored by the Richard E. Hourigan VFW Post and auxiliary.

Concerts in Groton, Stonington

Safety protocols dominated the planning for the annual Concerts in the Park at Washington Park, Groton City. The series of free concerts, sponsored by the city and Groton Utilities, started last week and continue every Friday through Aug. 28 at 6:30 p.m. This week, The Usual Lebowskis will play.

City Mayor Keith Hedrick said boundaries have been drawn up for social distancing, with 15-foot boxes for seating arranged in the park. Mask wearing will be monitored during the concerts. He said this way, people can experience music and activities that bring joy to their lives and still be safe. The concert schedule is available at www.cityofgroton.com.

Rachel Edwards, interim director of operations at Stonington Vineyards, said the vineyard has had to limit attendance at its annual summer Friday night concert series, which runs 6-9 p.m. through Aug. 28. Tickets are $10 each, with 25% of the fee donated to a specific charity each week. The series continues this Friday with the band Sunday Gravy, with 25% to be donated to the D-Strong Foundation. Reservations can be made at www.stoningtonvineyards.com.

“We don’t have the same numbers as in previous years, obviously,” Edwards said, “but the concerts have still been very well attended and have been a fun way to offer a summer experience to our customers while maintaining appropriate social distancing procedures.”

The vineyard has made several changes under COVID-19 times. Tickets must be purchased in advance for specific concert dates, with limited tickets at the door if space allows. Edwards said the large lawn can accommodate spacing of at least 10 feet between patrons. People can bring their own pop-up tents, chairs tables and picnic food. There’s a food truck and prepared food platters for purchase by Gourmet Galley Catering. Masks must be worn when not sitting with your group.

“Overall, our customers have been wonderful about following the rules and extremely supportive of our winery,” Edwards said. “We have received a lot of positive feedback from customers who appreciate all our efforts to create summer experiences that make them feel safe.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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