BURRILLVILLE – After a one year Covid-prompted hiatus, the Riverwalk Concert series will make a return in Burrillville in 2021, with a lineup of high quality entertainment on Saturdays through the summer.
The concerts, put on by Friends of the Jesse Smith Memorial Library, typically bring more than 4,000 people to Stillwater Mill Pavilion through the warmer months.
Dreamed up in 2008 not as a fundraiser, but rather a way to give back to the community as a “thank you,” for support of the library, the events will take place every Saturday from July 10 through August 21.
“We have great acts this summer,” said Peggy Dudley, a member of both Friends of the Library and the Library Board of Trustees for Jesse Smith. “We have seven really good groups coming in to provide entertainment.”
In 2021, Dudley noted the top-notch lineup will begin with Jesse Liam Band, a staple at the popular events since 2013. Highlights this year also include Brass Attack on Saturday, July 17, described by Dudley as, “probably one of the best dance bands out there.”
And she says that’s just the start of what promises to be a fantastic summer of entertainment, which may be all the more appreciated by crowds largely deprived of live music for the past year. Guests are invited to bring lawn chairs and blankets for the free concerts, and to dance away warm summer weekends under the pavilion.
“My favorite is Kelley Lennon band,” Dudley said of this year’s lineup, noting that the act played the series for the first time in 2019. “I can’t tell you how many people came up to me and said ‘where did you find that group?’ They really liked them.”
It’s a free and well-run series of events that have gotten better each year – save 2020, of course – since it was first conceived by Board of Trustees member G Wayne Miller.
“The first two years, the concerts, they weren’t good,” Dudley said with a laugh.
The quality of acts, Dudley noted, improved dramatically five years ago after organizers increased their budget to pay for acts by adding on business sponsors.
“Every one of those concerts came out of the Friends’ money,” she said of the early years.
The events are just one way the organization brings attention and support to Jesse Smith. The group aims to fill in budget gaps, purchasing any items the town doesn’t supply for the library, from discounted passes to local venues, to supplies for teen and children’s programs.
“Whatever they need, we buy it for them, because the operating budget just doesn’t have the leeway in it,” Dudley said.
The Friends purchased furniture, Wii games, snacks and more for Jesse Smith’s drop-in after school program, which boasts the second-highest attendance in the state for an effort of its kind.
And while many of the library’s activities aren’t currently running, Dudley notes that the Friends will be there for support as they launch once again post COVID-19.
Dudley discussed the organization’s effort during a recent appearance as the guest speaker for the Burrillville Lions Club.
“How do we make our money? Slowly,” Dudley said.
She noted that events such as book sales and vendor fairs help the Friends to raise funds, while the concerts, at least most years, have been an expense as the group pays for the acts. Volunteers circle the crowds with buckets for donations to fund the effort.
In 2019, the organization made roughly $400 after working with a budget of $8,000.
“That was the first time that we didn’t have to dip into the Friends’ treasury,” she said of the series’ last run.
Dudley said she’s hopeful 2021 will see great attendance and community support.
“It’s all good entertainment,” she said.
“We’re spending a lot of money on entertainment, so please come,” Duley told the Lions. “And when we put the bucket in front of you, kindly put some money in.”
Riverwalk concerts will take place in front of the library at 100 Tinkham Lane every Saturday starting at 6 p.m. The complete lineup is posted below.
JULY 10 Jesse Liam Band
JULY 17 Brass Attack
JULY 24 All About Amy (formerly The Deloreans)
JULY 31 The Kelley Lennon Band
AUGUST 7 The Live Music Band
AUGUST 14 The Aviators
AUGUST 21 The Black Tie Band