The outdoor dance floor at Cape Fear Botanical Garden hadn’t yet seen its first pair of cowboy boots, but Taryn Hughes wasn’t worried.
After all, the sun hadn’t quite slipped behind a stand of pines that bordered the garden.
“Nobody dances until the sun goes down,” Hughes said. “Until then, everyone is just taking it easy.”
Besides, the early crowd at the first outdoor Third Thursday event was happy just to relax, taking in the music and unseasonably warm weather.
Which was fine with Hughes, the marketing director for the garden. Thursday’s event, called Beer BBQ and Boots, was the first outdoor concert of the summer schedule.
“We had one in March,” she said. “It was OK, but it had to be held indoors. That’s not really what we were getting at.
“We want to bring music outside into the garden. People enjoy coming here, they like to bring their family, but we kept hearing that people wanted to have a time during the week when we’d be open.
“This is a great way to give people that opportunity.”
Some people brought chairs or blankets to spread out and take in the evening. Nearly everyone was definitely dressed down.
“The reality is that I bet everyone here would be doing the exact same thing, just in their backyard,” said Sarah Miller. She had arrived with friends and was relaxing over a cold beer and food from My Daddy’s Barbeque. Whiskey Pines, a country-blues duet from Southern Pines was wrapping an acoustic version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.” A light southerly breeze stirred the evening as shadows covered the still unoccupied dance floor.
A few folks toured the garden, but with things past azaleas and not quite to honeysuckle season, blossoms were sparse.
Besides, this was an evening for relaxing and occasionally singing along with the band.
Even if, like 13-month-old Avery Wonnenberg, you didn’t quite know how to sing yet. She took in each song, bouncing to the rhythm and clapping. Her parents, Keith and Jannell, brought her to the garden “to enjoy the evening,” her mom said.
“We came from Colorado,” Keith Wonnenberg said. “They have lots of events like this out there. I’m glad to see this.”
That was the general reaction from garden guests, an eclectic blend of retirees, military families and young professionals.
“Cold beer and good food help,” joked Dan Oakes, who was sitting with friends as Whiskey Pines rolled into The Band’s “Up On Cripple Creek.”
“I’m just super happy to have a nice, lively but not-too busy place to relax with friends and enjoy ourselves,” added Peace Lites. “Usually you have to drive to Raleigh or the Triangle for this.”
Next month, Cape Fear Botanical Garden’s Third Thursday will feature an evening of beach music — and, likely, a lot more dancing.
“We’ll definitely come back next time,” Lites said.
Staff writer Chick Jacobs can be reached at 486-3515 or firstname.lastname@example.org.