Thousands filled downtown's Lions Wayside and Delucchi parks Friday night to hear the classic soul and Motown hits by West Grand Boulevard.
They filled lawn chairs and blankets for two blocks along First Street, with children playing, neighbors chatting, new and old friends enjoying a drink together and families picnicking.
It's a sight that makes many passersby stop in their tracks. But for many in attendance, the Concerts in the Park series -- held weekly every summer by the Pleasanton Downtown Association (PDA) -- is a welcome and regular scene.
"I've been coming here for five years. Every Friday, same spot," Caroline Pashion said during the June 26 performance, lounging in her usual lawn chair. "I enjoy it because I like the beautiful weather and the family and social time."
PDA executive director Laura Olson estimates that over 3,500 people attend the concerts every week. Many drive by around 6 p.m. and see half the park already filled with people.
Concerts in the Park takes place annually on Friday nights from June to August.
The free concerts, held at the Chan Henderson Bandstand in Lions Wayside Park from 7-8:30 p.m., continue tonight with classic soul and Motown hits performed by West Grand Boulevard.
The 2015 series presents a variety of genres, such as 1980s hits, big band swing and contemporary rock through Aug. 28, when the Public Eye closes out Concerts in the Park with high energy rock 'n' roll.
"The concerts have clearly grown significantly in terms of attendance. It started with a little bit of Wayside Park, and then the whole Wayside Park, and to what it has grown to become today," Olson said.
The city of Pleasanton started Concerts in the Park more than 30 years ago, and the PDA has been planning the summer tradition since taking over the event in the late 1980s. The tradition has been around so long even some longtime residents can't remember a summer without the concerts.
"One purpose of this event is getting the community together to just enjoy a night in downtown Pleasanton," said Julie Vlahon, PDA events and communications manager. "People can dance, enjoy food, and listen to great music. It makes a city that has been growing feel a little smaller."
Vlahon, who now leads Concerts in the Park planning, counted herself among astonished first-time visitors to the concert series when she attended her introductory show three years ago.
"The feeling I got from being there, the pride people take in Pleasanton, neighbors talking to neighbors, the live music ... it's overwhelming. You didn't know it existed before you go. It's amazing," she recalled.
A first-time visitor this year, Steve Dukleth came with his family and friends June 26, when the Georgi and the Rough Week performed rockin' blues music.
"I'm enjoying the music and the concert so far," he said.
"I'll definitely come back. I'll just make sure to save closer seats for next time," he added with a laugh.
Not only do the concerts present a fun community event, but they also create an important multiplier effect for downtown businesses by bringing several thousand people to the area every week, PDA officials noted.
To help boost interest this year, the PDA has invited four new bands to provide a more varied repertoire, with old faves and new faces. So far, the reactions have been great, according to Vlahon.
Crawdad Republic, one of the new groups this year who performed June 19, brought a new, Mumford and Sons-style folk bluegrass sound that received a wonderful reception, she said.
Some of the series' success can be attributed to Concerts in the Park's rigorous band selection process. Applications to perform are due every October, and the PDA makes decisions by December after reviewing the music and listening to community feedback.
Each event also offers other activities in addition to the musical performance.
In the past, concert sponsors have brought in a face painting and hair braiding booth, balloons for kids, free giveaways and even a photo booth. The Pleasanton Weekly has been the event's exclusive media sponsor since 2007. Also, the PDA booth near the Neal Street entrance always features free raffles.
To keep the concerts safe and fun, the PDA has a few rules for attendees.
Concertgoers who would like to save a seat can only put out a blanket after midnight on Friday. Tarps and rocks are not allowed on the grass to prevent burning the grass and obstructing lawn mowers, respectively.
Also, the city allows alcohol consumption only during the duration of the concert. Dogs and animals must be on leashes, and everyone is advised to leave the park before 10 p.m. Friday.
Vlahon offered other advice for any future visitors.
"Railroad (Avenue) corridor and the Firehouse Arts Center are the best places to park," she said. "And if you want a good (seating) spot, get there as early as possible."
According to PDA officials, new and exciting plans are in store for the future of Concerts in the Park.
Last October, the city of Pleasanton approved a master plan for a renovation of Lions Wayside and Delucchi parks with changes such as a new, larger bandstand structure and an expanded audience area made possible by filling in an existing ditch.
"This is the future of the concert: better bandstand, accommodations for more people, more shade and professional staging, lighting and speakers," Olson said. "We hope to make the bandstand useful year-round for everybody."
With the changes in store, PDA officials also say they are committed to preserving the traditional family-friendly, small-town atmosphere.
"I want it to always be an event that no matter what age you are, you can enjoy," Vlahon said. "We have little tinies that are dancing their socks off in front of the stage; families there are comfortable bringing their babies. And we also have retired seniors dancing and enjoying. I want a concert that someone of all ages can come and enjoy."
Concerts in the Park
Every Friday until Aug. 28
Time: 7-8:30 p.m.
Location: Lions Wayside Park (corner of First Street and Neal Street)
Next Friday, July 17 -- CoolTones
Big band and swing
July 24 -- The Banned
July 31 -- The Apes
Aug. 7 -- Tommy and the 4 Speeds
Aug. 14 -- Max Cruise
Rock, pop and R&B
Aug. 21 -- Magic Moments
Aug. 28 -- Public Eye
High energy rock 'n roll.