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HUNTINGTON — Local musicians are making Ritter Park a place for players and viewers alike to enjoy live music.

Musicians from Huntington Old Time Dance and Music will host Sunday afternoon “Jam in the Park’’ sessions throughout the summer at Ritter Park. HOTDAM President Dennis Bills said the Stony Point String Band, of which he is a member, held similar jam sessions in the past. He said he always wanted to expand it to encourage other musicians to play with them.

One jam session was held on Sunday afternoon. Bills said a few spectators listened. Some brought chairs with them, others stood around to watch and some children started to dance along. Others who came to Ritter Park to walk a few laps paused before returning to their activity.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, live music shows were limited due to safety guidelines. Bills said many of the musicians were itching to perform for a crowd.

“We like to get out and play music so people can hear it,” Bills said. “It’s a joy both ways, especially when you see people tapping their foot and kids dancing and stuff like that. It’s an enjoyable thing. You know that you are entertaining. That’s what it’s about.”

While some artists took their shows online during the pandemic, either by using Zoom or another video platform, Bills said a virtual experience doesn’t quite give the same level of entertainment as a live experience.

Depending on weather, Jam in the Park will be held on Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m., Bills said.

The instruments they use are acoustic. All genres and instruments are welcome at Jam in the Park, Bills said. Stony Point Band and HOTDAM typically play old-time music that was brought to Appalachia from places such as England, Ireland and Germany.

Bills said the group includes musicians who like to mentor those with less experience. He said Jam in the Park might encourage someone who has not performed in front of a crowd to give it a try.

Bills said he reached out to the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District and received help from Lauren Patrick, the district’s recreation superintendent, to further promote the event.

For those who may have more questions about Jam in the Park, Bills can be reached by email at dwbills@gmail.com.

Another HOTDAM event series, Old Time Dances, is being discussed. Bills said the group’s board will meet in the next few months to decide when and if the dances can take place starting this fall. They will review CDC guidelines regarding the coronavirus pandemic before announcing a decision.

McKenna Horsley is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @mckennahorsley.

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