BY GEORGE MARATOS

Unplugging microphones, rolling cord and hauling away speakers … Steve Slade has the routine down to a tee and with good reason.

The long-time Yukon musician has been involved with Arts in the Park since its inaugural season and the daily setup and takedown of equipment is just one of the many tasks for the self-described “Jack of all Trades”.

Slade, Arts in the Park producer, jokes that he does the job year after year because it’s a good-paying gig, but after chatting with him following a recent noon hour concert, it’s obvious being the backbone behind the event means a lot more to him than just a regular paycheque.

“I’m a jack of all and a master of none,” jokes the thick-bearded Slade as he gathers cord and takes down some more speaker stands.

It was Slade along with the late Dereen Hildebrand who first came up with idea of having free performances in the park and, 12 years later, Arts in the Park is showing no signs of slowing down.

“I’m more about community over commodity and that’s what’s so special about this event, what it does for the community,” said Slade.

A quick glance of the park on this particular Thursday afternoon and it is easy to understand what Slade is speaking about.

Children can be seen frolicking on the lawn in front of the stage, while at the same time a First Nation elder claps her hands while seated in her wheelchair. It even looks like the dog in the back row is tapping its paw in unison with the beat.

Today it is renowned Yukon fiddler Joe Loutchan and friends who are gracing the stage to entertain the more than 125 on hand.

Loutchan is just one of many performers who will make up the line-up for the 2008 season.

Presented by the Yukon Arts Society, the 12th season of Arts in the Park officially kicked off May 20 and, throughout the summer until mid-August, performers will range from fiddlers and visual artists to community choirs and poets.

“I’ve got more artists wanting to perform than I have spots so that’s great news,” explains Slade when asked if it’s hard filling the roster with acts. “They’ll maybe walk away with just $75 dollars at the end of their show so they’re the ones that really make this work.”

Assisting Slade this summer in the park is Toronto resident Samantha Thompson, who studies international relations.

“It’s the ideal job for me,” explains Thompson. “You get to listen to great music and be outside for three or four hours a day.”

Maybe Joe Loutchan summed it up best when addressing the crowd following his closing song: “This really is the best way to kick off the summer.”

Arts in the Park runs Monday to Friday from noon to 1 p.m.

Visual artists display their works from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. through the week.