Music in the air at Brandon outdoor concerts

It’s a Wednesday night in Brandon, and 150 people have gathered on the big lawn behind the Brandon Inn. Children dart and cartwheel from one grassy spot to the next, some holding bags of popcorn they picked up for free from a nearby popcorn machine.
The early-evening sun is out, birds fly overhead and the Neshobe River, high from recent-but-long-forgotten downpours, rushes past. In the lawn’s center, an Irish band called Extra Stout entertains the crowd with jigs, sing-alongs and some mean fiddling. Everyone seems to be having a very good time.
It’s the first of this year’s Brandon Summer Concert Series, a weekly Wednesday evening event that will present live musical performances on the lawn behind the inn from July 5 to Aug. 30.
Brandon’s concert series, which started as a bi-monthly event at which the town band played, has been a summer classic for years. But after bouts of irregular scheduling and lagging attendance, the Brandon Chamber of Commerce has decided to switch things up. Starting last year, organizers began hosting regular weekly concerts. On several occasions, they hosted beer tents and food vendors.
This year, concertgoers can head to the Brandon Inn’s patio for wine and beer by the glass, and the popcorn vendor doles out free bags for everyone.
“It started with fundraising last year — a fantastic campaign,” said Bill Moore, Brandon’s director of economic development. “We were shocked, surprised and inspired by the amount of money we were able to get from local community members and local businesses to restart this tradition.”
The free popcorn marks a small dream come true for the late Bette Moffett, who was involved in creating the Brandon Town Band and other local institutions before her death in 2013.
“She said, ‘I always wanted to see kids have popcorn at the town band concerts.’ So now we give away free popcorn,” Moore said.
And the town band is still part of the series, too. A professional band will play at 7 p.m. each Wednesday, and on several Wednesday the Brandon Town Band will perform a set beginning at 6 p.m. In addition to this week’s July 12 performance, the town band will also perform Aug. 2 and Aug. 16.
Aside from the popcorn, the Brandon concert series won’t offer food regularly, but organizers have worked with local restaurants like Café Provence, Mae’s Place and the Brandon House of Pizza, all of which will offer specials on Wednesday evenings for those interested in getting a nearby bite to eat before the show.
“I think the community wanted to come together and celebrate in music,” Moore said.
Those planning to attend next Wednesday’s concert had better bring their dancing shoes.
Red Hot Juba, self-described as “blisterin’ hot countrified jazz and Green Mountain swing,” will send electrifying sound waves over the crowd in hopes of getting listeners on their feet.
“You have people at the summer concerts who are going to come and chill out and watch the music, but when people get up and dance and start hooting and hollering, that’s what makes it really fun to us,” said Eric Krull, the band’s singer and “de-facto frontman.”
Red Hot Juba has been playing in front of Vermont crowds for 15 years. Based mainly in Chittenden County, they’ve headed south to Addison County for other events, like the Lincoln Peak Winery’s summer concert series.
“There’s familiar faces that we’ve gotten to know over the years, and that makes for a fun time,” Krull said. “Addison County is always a ton of fun.”
When the bands bring their following, that’s even better for the event, says Moore, who was pleased with attendance at the season’s first concert and hopes it will grow over the summer.
“I encourage people in greater Addison and Rutland counties to come on down to Brandon, because Brandon is a special place,” he said. “You really get to see the best of Brandon here at these summer concerts and these types of events. This is the type of thing that brought me to town — I still remember going up to the Briggs Carriage Bookstore when they were playing music and thinking, ‘I could settle into a place like this. This is nice.’”
For more information about Brandon’s concert series, visit brandon.org/events-and-happenings.

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