Music in Plymouth

by | Jun 2011

The Music in Plymouth crowd at the first amphitheater site in Plymouth.

The Music in Plymouth crowd at the first amphitheater site in Plymouth. Photo: Music in Plymouth

Music in Plymouth celebrates its 39th anniversary this month.

On June 29, more than 15,000 Plymouth-area residents will load picnic suppers, blankets and lawn chairs into the trunks of their cars and drive to the newly renovated Hilde Performance Center for the most highly anticipated community event of the summer: Music in Plymouth (MIP). The event began in 1972 when former Mayor Al Hilde Jr. formed the Plymouth Civic League as a way to unite and bring culture to the expanding community. It’s also the longest-running concert in the Minnesota Orchestra’s Symphony for the Cities series.

“It started on what is now McQuay’s back parking lot. We had a dunk tank and sold beer and brats. The beer didn’t make it after the first year or two as I recall,” quips Tom Johnson, a Plymouth resident since 1981.

As a new hire at McQuay International 38 years ago, Johnson was recruited for the Plymouth Civic League, an all-volunteer organization with 30-plus members on the board of directors. This year’s theme, “Getting Better All the Time,” is telling, as MIP hasn’t always run so smoothly. The event outgrew the McQuay parking lot after a few years and found a temporary home behind City Hall. When those offices were expanded and a public safety building was built on that location in 1992, MIP had to move again.

Finally, after struggling with the city for grants and donations, the civic league was presented with a solution. “The city finally realized that MIP was an asset, not a liability, and things started to change. And, of course, the Hilde donation for the permanent band shell sealed it,” Johnson says. “The city really embraced us.”

The grand opening and dedication of the Hilde Performance Center, built with a donation from Hilde and his wife Jayne, coincided with Music in Plymouth’s 30th anniversary in July 2002. The space honors those who provided public service for the city during transition years and also serves as a venue for summer concerts and other performances. It’s only fitting that the renovations that began in 2010 are complete, including increased seating and enhanced vendor areas, just in time for MIP’s 39th anniversary this year.

Mele Willis, current publicity chairperson for Plymouth Civic League, attended MIP as a young girl growing up in Plymouth. “It’s an opportunity to enjoy a diversity of entertainment in a safe, family-friendly environment in one of the loveliest parks in the cities.  The chance to hear the Minnesota Orchestra on a beautiful Minnesota summer night really can’t be beat. And you just haven’t seen fireworks until you’ve watched them exploding directly overhead choreographed to music,” she says.

When Willis moved back to the area 15 years ago, she became involved in the civic league and was instrumental in organizing the 5K run, now in its 15th year. “It was started to extend the MIP celebration and to create another fun, family-oriented event in the city as well as another funding stream for MIP itself,” she says. All proceeds raised from the 5K support the presentation of Music in Plymouth.

Johnson is quick to credit Hilde, community leader Curt L. Carlson and other CEOs in the industrial park for keeping the performance alive. Support from residents and local businesses throughout the years has been vitally important to the event. “We could not do it without them. It’s tough to get donations in a down economy, but to their credit, they have always managed to come through. Kudos to the business people in Plymouth and to our individual contributors,” says Johnson.

WHAT: Music in Plymouth’s 5K Fun Run/Walk

WHERE: Course begins and ends at the Hilde Performance Center, 3450 Plymouth Blvd.

WHEN: 8 a.m. Saturday, June 25

COST: Before June 18, the race is free for kids younger than 6, $15 for kids ages 6–12 and $20 for adults. Day-of registration begins at 7 a.m. and is $20 for kids and $25 for adults. Register in-person at the Plymouth Parks & Recreation desk or online at

DETAILS: Families and racers alike are welcome. Prizes will be awarded to the first-place finishers (male and female) in five age categories. All participants will receive goodie bags, refreshments and more.

WHAT: 39th Annual Music in Plymouth

WHERE: Hilde Performance Center, 3450 Plymouth Blvd.

WHEN: 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 29 (early birds get the best seats!)

COST: Free

DETAILS: The entire evening’s events are simulcast on a large screen overhead for easy viewing for all attendees. Concessions, face painting, magicians and an instrument demonstration station will provide additional entertainment prior to and during the event.


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