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Concert series to return this year

A series of community concerts held at the gazebo in front of The Smithfield Times office on Main Street will return in July this year, organizers say.

The concerts had been an annual affair until last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated their cancellation. Normally, the concerts start on Memorial Day weekend and run through Labor Day weekend.

John Edwards, publisher emeritus of The Smithfield Times, helped start the concerts with his wife Anne in 1987.

“It’s been a popular event,” Edwards said in an interview last week. “I’ve had people calling the last month wanting to know if we’re going to have them this year.”

Edwards got inspired to start the concerts when another businessman on Main Street pitched the idea to him. They started with a few concerts using a flatbed trailer and borrowed sound equipment. The concerts then went to every other week, and eventually demand was high enough, and logistics were easier, to just have them every week.

The Summer Concert Series is one of the programs under the umbrella of the Isle of Wight Arts League. Hosting primarily has been done by the Edwardses over the years with occasional help from Elaine Dairo, Jim Abicht and other community friends, Dairo said.

Dairo said the concerts are an important part of the community.

“The concerts afford neighbors the opportunity to get out, meet and greet, and get to know each other better,” Dairo wrote in an email. “Some people have lived near each other for years and never get a chance to socialize. There’s just something about getting out into the open air, under the stars, that will make people come out for the experience, regardless of who’s playing that night.”

Edwards said the organizers of the concerts look for a broad mix of styles by local bands to feature throughout the season. Jazz, blues, rock and roll, country, patriotic, Broadway tunes, gospel and more are all likely to be up on deck in any given season.

“We try to get as diverse an audience as we can throughout the season,” he said.

Edwards said several bands are lined up for this season and several more are interested, but they plan to release the entire schedule at once.

Edwards said several local families who believe in the concert series underwrite it every year, so it has not had to raise money.

Edwards said he feels good about the vaccination schedule and feels confident many people in town will be able to attend by July. He said organizers would insist that performers be vaccinated.

“We’re going to advertise it as open to the vaccinated public, and encourage people that aren’t vaccinated not to come until they are,” Edwards said. “It’s that simple.”

The outdoor venue and social distancing from other attendees will also help make the event safer, he noted.