The Columbia Association's 1994 Lakefront Summer Festival has returned to Lake Kittamaqundi with programs from reggae and blues to Abbot and Costello.
For almost 25 years, the festival has brought free, outdoor evening concerts and movies to Columbia. The 10-week event, which began Monday, will run through the first week in September.
Attracting 200 to 400 visitors per performance, the festival is "very, very popular," said Ann Sherr, assistant director of CA's Community Services Division.
Because of its popularity, the festival has added Sunday to its schedule. Although all other concerts are from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday concerts begin at 6:30 p.m. so festival-goers can eat a picnic dinner.
With a budget of $48,000, the festival books acts as diverse as folk singer Pete Kennedy, reggae group Unity, children's singer Barry Louis Polisar and rhythm and blues performers Billy Hancock and the Sidekicks.
"I look for a variety to provide quality, the best that can be heard," said Rick LaRocca, festival director. "Each performance has its own audience, so I try to provide variety. It's so people will say, 'What is there to do? We can always to the Lakefront. It'll always be good.' "
A singer and songwriter, Mr. LaRocca joined the festival in 1980 while he was running a guitar school and weekend coffee houses in the county.
A resident of Columbia, he tries to select acts that feature local performers. "Local, meaning Howard County, performers who grew up and went to school here," he said.
One such group, Totally Confused, will perform tomorrow night.
The eight-member band features four musicians with county roots. Drummer Dale Mauck, of Clarksville, attended Atholton High School; and saxophonist Frank Courtwright of Columbia, trumpet player Kerry Martin and trombonist Steve Ott graduated from Wilde Lake High School.
Billed as "Totally Confused with Totally Hot Horns," the group performs big band blues including boogie woogie, Zydeco -- Creole music of southern and southwest Louisiana -- and "a lot of swing," said guitarist and washboard player Steve Enslow.
Formed in 1988, the band performs in the Baltimore and Washington area, as well as in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York.
Although its music is designed for the club crowd, its Columbia concerts are family-oriented.
"We do well with children," said Mr. Enslow, the group's only original member. "At [last week's] Columbia Festival of the Arts, we saw a few little kids in the crowd dancing. We brought them up, gave them tambourines and maracas, and let them dance onstage. The kids love it, the parents love it."
Sunday concerts, co-sponsored by the Columbia Concert Band, will showcase concert bands including the Baltimore Symphonic Band, the Baywinds Concert Band and the Starvation Army performing Dixieland.
"Family Film Nights" are held Mondays with G-rated movies featuring cartoons and adventure films. Friday's movies are rated PG or PG-13. All movies are shown at dusk, about 8:30 p.m.
A 12- by 9-foot canvas and good sound system are placed in front of the stage as movie-goers sit on the grass or steps, or bring chairs to catch recently released and classic films.
Films include "Sleepless in Seattle" today; "Cinema Paradiso" on July 8; and "The 25th Anniversary Special: Sesame Street Presents -- Follow That Bird" on July 11.
A "mini Frankenstein festival" featuring "Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein" will be shown July 15, and Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" will be shown July 22.
The festival originated in 1972 with a film series by Tom Brzezinski, who was a media specialist at Bryant Woods Elementary.
Before that, he said, "I thought it would be a community service to show films outdoors during the summer. So I rented films on my own, took a projector to a park in Bryant Woods, ran off notices at school and handed it out to children in the neighborhood."
In 1972, CA suggested he show the movies at the lake in what eventually became the Lakefront Festival.
One of the festival's favorite attractions is Open Stage, giving amateurs a shot at 10 minutes of fame.
"There's been nothing too outrageous, except for that one time I saw guys dressed in drag dancing onstage to tape and lip-synching," Mr. LaRocca said. "I was afraid I'd get phone calls. But as I got closer I realized they were doing a song from 'The Rocky Horror Show,' and everyone was having a good time."
For the season's first Open Stages, Mr. LaRocca hired performers as fillers. He even brought along his guitar and performed last Tuesday.
The Columbia Association's free 1994 Lakefront Summer Festival will run through Sept. 2 at Lake Kittamaqundi.
Concerts are from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday concerts begin at 6:30 p.m. Open stage sign-ups begin at 7 p.m. For a complete schedule, call 715-3000. The Rainline is 381-9585.