Outdoor concerts at Reno a singing success


Courtesy of Ruby Mason

Annette Leber and Ruby Mason

For the 51st year in a row, the concerts at Fort Reno drew in everyone—children, adults, and even dogs—from all over the city to relax during the summer evenings and enjoy music as a community. Local bands including Fugazi, Q and Not U, and Priests have performed there. 

Fort Reno has been a huge part of the Tenleytown community for years. Ever since it was built in 1861 as a Civil War fort, the park has played a major role in developing a sense of unity in DC. During the war, many people moved onto the fort grounds in search of safety, until they were later forcibly relocated in order to turn the fort into a public park. Since then, the park has been used for many community events, including the Annual Fort Reno Concert Series. The shows originally began in 1968 to bring everyone together in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. After facing the threat of being canceled multiple times due to budgeting issues, the community has strived to keep the tradition alive.

Fort Reno’s concerts are an excellent way to meet new people, connect with old friends, and explore new bands. People of all ages gather around the stage to watch the bands perform. Some bring chairs or blankets to picnic on, while lots of kids bring frisbees and footballs to toss. Parents and friends lounge around and enjoy each others’ company. Freshman Nicole Williams enjoys the relaxed atmosphere that the concerts bring. “I’ve been coming here since last year. I found my favorite band here. . . It’s just a nice way to calm down and let loose,” she said. “After having a long day you can come here and lie down or read a book or hang out with your friends. It’s a nice way to end the day.” 

Artist Kayti Didriksen has been coming to the Fort Reno concerts since the late 80’s to capture the essence of the concerts in different styles of drawings and paintings. She enjoys the “super community-oriented” atmosphere that is “all about live music and getting together with your neighbors to enjoy it.” Didriksen explained that “it’s a place to gather in the summer when it’s hot. You can bring your kids and your dogs and I think it’s nice that live music is involved.” 

To mark the 50th anniversary in 2018, the Fort Reno Concert Series launched a Kickstarter to earn money to help put on the annual shows. While the shows are free for all to enjoy, they can cost quite a bit to produce. But with the tremendous amount of financial support that they received from the community—a whopping $13,771—hopefully the concerts will be able to continue for years to come.