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Thursday evenings spent in the garden

WESSINGTON SPRINGS -- On Thursday evenings during the summer, music and laughter can be heard floating out of Shakespeare Garden in Wessington Springs thanks to a summer concert series.

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WESSINGTON SPRINGS - On Thursday evenings during the summer, music and laughter can be heard floating out of Shakespeare Garden in Wessington Springs thanks to a summer concert series.

The concert series, Music in the Garden, has been a part of the Wessington Springs community calendar since the summer of 2013. The music event was started by retired University of Montana music professor Mary Jane Dean Belz.

Belz was born and raised in Wessington Springs and has fond memories of the Shakespeare Garden and Anne Hathaway Cottage; even after living in the Montana "Big Sky Country" and the nation of Germany for many years, Belz still returned.

After retiring to Wessington Springs, Belz approached the board of directors of the Shakespeare Garden to pitch her idea of a summer music series.

"The garden and the flowers were so beautiful," Belz said. "My music background said 'Why aren't we having some kind of activities up in the garden?'"

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Five years later, the summer concert series is alive and well, drawing more than 100 people to the garden each Thursday night from the end of June to the end of July. Each concert is held in the Shakespeare Garden near the Anne Hathaway Cottage and is free to attend. A supper provided by local eateries is served at 6 p.m. and the hour-long performances by local musicians begins at 7 p.m.

"We have strong community support primarily because we involved only local entertainment," Belz explained.

The program is provided by the Shakespeare Garden Board of Directors, a nonprofit organization that consists of mostly volunteers.

"We take donations and write grants," Belz said. "We have many donations in honor and memory of loved ones."

Donations made in memory of loved ones are placed on individual wooden plaques that are scattered throughout the garden.

As for the summer music concerts, Belz hopes they occur for years to come.

"It is worth the drive up," she said. "It's just stunning."

The Shakespeare Garden hosts four more concerts this summer. The Bergeleen Family singers will perform Thursday and the eatery Sweet Grass will provide a meal. A concert dedicated to the "Hits of the 1950s will occur on July 12 where Humm Dinger will serve a meal. The July 19 concert features the WSUMC Praise Band and Cone Zone eatery will cater the meal. July 26 marks the final concert of the summer. Leo Jensen, a local vocalist and instrumentalist, will perform and Springs Inn Café will provide a meal.

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