About 20 years ago, Bryant Woods Elementary media specialist Tom Brzezinski came up with a way to help school kids and their parents pass the lazy summer evenings. He rented movies and showed them on a projector at a local park.
The success of this one-man film fest caught the attention of Columbia Association officials, who invited Mr. Brzezinski to screen the flicks at Lake Kittamaqundi.
The rest, as they say in the movies, is history. This summertime community gathering has evolved into the CA's popular Lakefront Summer Festival, the outdoor series of free films and concerts that began last week.
The musical portion of the schedule is of a quality that larger community programs might envy. Among the acts slated to play most evenings at 8 p.m. are veteran folk singer Pete Kennedy, the reggae group Unity, well-known children's singer Barry Louis Polisar and the rhythm-and-blues band Billy Hancock and the Sidekicks.
Sunday evening concerts have been added to the festival this year, thanks to the popularity of past years' musical performances. The Sunday shows, featuring concert bands, begin at 6:30 p.m., anhour meant to encourage picnicking by the crowd.
Festival director Rick LaRocca points out with justifiable pride that many of the musical acts are from Howard County and its environs. He also has sought out excellent musicians, he explains, "so people will say, 'What is there to do? We can always go to the Lakefront. It'll always be good.' "
And as always, free outdoor films, ranging from cartoons and adventure films on Mondays to more adult fare on Fridays, are part of the Lakefront festival. The Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan blockbuster, "Sleepless in Seattle," was shown last Friday. Tonight's feature is the Italian-language hit, "Cinema Paradiso." A "mini-Frankenstein festival," including "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" and Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein," is planned for later this month. Screenings begin at 8:30 p.m.
Columbia's Lakefront Summer Festival continues through the first week of September. The event at Lake Kittamaqundi has come far since that first summer of films in Bryant Woods. But the goal and the results remain the same -- Howard countians enjoyably passing away lazy summer evenings. For the full festival schedule, phone 715-3000.