For the past 16 years, crowds have flocked to a full house at the Pea Green Community Hall to experience a step back in time.
The event started as a benefit to support the venue, and has since grown into a widely-known community concert series that takes place on the fourth Saturday of each winter month, from January to April. The 2020 series will start on Jan. 25, featuring bands The Great Western Heritage Show and The Last Spike, as well as newly-formed comedy duo The Pea Green Brothers. The two comedians, Dean Rickman and Len Willey, work together with the venue’s staff to run the Pea Green series.
Willey has been a part of the series for 16 years, and says the growth has yet to slow down.
“I promised myself as long as all the seats were filled, we’d keep doing it,” Willey said. “We’re looking at a full house each time, so I guess we’re doing something right.”
Pea Green Saturday Nights feature “bluegrass and cowboy music from a bygone era,” and brings a rotation of carefully-selected bands that capture an “old-timey” aesthetic to match the building itself.
“The biggest thing about this concert is its uniqueness. Right off the bat, you walk into history,” Willey said. “It’s something that you remember because of how different it is... You go back in time for two and a half hours, and when you leave, you wonder where you’ve been.”
This year, six new bands will perform at Pea Green in addition to veteran musicians. Because of the unique experience of the venue, performers tend to return multiple times, some from as far as Moab, Utah.
“The bands are good, they just love the idea of going up on stage with the lighting and everything and playing for an attentive crowd of one hundred to two hundred people who listen to every word and every note,” Willey said. “As a musician, that’s a wondrous thing.”
In addition to the rotating cast of performers, veteran “Pea Greeners” return every season, armed with seat cushions and lapel buttons, to hear the music.
“People who like that kind of music get to hear it and enjoy it, to see that it’s still alive and still happening,” Willey said.
2019 brought a few changes to Pea Green that will continue into the 2020 season: one being Willey’s partnership with Rickman, and another being the addition of sponsors in order to keep admission prices at $10.
“This is a folk experience for folk people, so we keep the price low,” Willey said, explaining that the cost of admission pays for two music sets, a comedy act, and the food and coffee available at the event.
Because the community tends to slow down during winter months, Willey said the Pea Green concert series gives people warmth to look forward to -- both from the venue’s heating and from the social connection that occurs between sets.
“It’s kind of a cool thing to do in the winter around here,” Willey said. “It’s indoors and we have a heater so people are warm, and it’s hugely social during the intermission. People run into people they know.”
While looking forward to the future of Pea Green, Willey also emphasized the importance of the event’s purpose: to keep traditions and the music of the past alive and to pass it on to another generation.
“This is the kind of music people played even before electricity and stages. It has a special place in the hearts and minds of a lot of the older people who pass it on to the kids,” Willey said. “We are a product of our past, the past is important… music is a powerful thing.”
The 2020 Pea Green Saturday Nights series will open its doors at 6 p.m. on Jan. 25, with the show running from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.