Wenger Pavilion, the site of the Baldwin Summer Concerts, was built by the Village of Baldwin to host community events and was originally called the Baldwin Pavilion. It was renamed in 1992 in memory of Emil H. Wenger, who served for many years as the village's mayor and the chief organizer of Baldwin's annual Troutarama Festival.
For 27 years, Wenger Pavilion has been home to the Baldwin Summer Concerts. Legendary bassist Eddie Calhoun, pianists Claude Black and Gene Harris, and saxophonist Mel Dalton have all lit up the Wenger Pavilion stage. First-time visitors to Baldwin are often surprised to find some of today's best musicians filling the summer nights with the hot sounds of jazz and blues. For in-the-know locals, however, the Baldwin Summer Concerts are one of the best of Baldwin's many summer pleasures. Concert-goers take a seat in the pavilion, bring their own lawn chairs to sit in the shade of nearby trees or, in a throwback to the old drive-in theaters, sit in the comfort of their cars. At the end of a musical number, a chorus of car horns joins the applause of the rest of the audience.
The concerts were the brainchild of the Baldwin Downtown Development Association and members of the original Wenger Pavilion Committee, which included Norma Russell, Kathy Matson, Cinda Rock, Judy White, Ted Pettengill and Shirley Wenger, Mayor Wenger's widow.
In the beginning, a once-a-month concert was envisioned using local talent, but it was quickly seen that professional expertise was needed. A program for a "Swing into Spring" concert held in Saugatuck, Michigan led the committee to concert producer Tim Scully. Norma Russell called Scully and asked him if he could organize eight concerts for Baldwin that first summer in 1991. Tim has been working with the committee ever since. Concerts are now held twice weekly on Wednesday and Saturday evenings from June to September.
The Baldwin Summer Concerts are the result of a community effort, but over the years, Shirley Wenger became the Concerts' figurehead and its main fund-raiser. Shirley grew up in California and as a teenager and young adult, she saw many of the big-band and jazz greats of the time. She was an avid supporter of the arts and drove to Manistee, Grand Rapids and Interlochen to attend concerts and theater. Local groups in Baldwin and nearby Idlewild could also count not only on Miss Shirley's attendance at their events, but on her financial support as well.
Shirley Wenger died in 2009, but her vision and that of the other original organizers lives on. The Baldwin Summer Concerts are going strong and the present Wenger Pavilion Comittee and other community volunteers, are working hard to continue to bring first-class music to the Baldwin area.
Join us this summer for another great concert series.