Courthouse concerts mostly back to normal

Red Willow Arts Coalition concerts start Thursday, May 27 on the Douglas County Courthouse lawn.

1 RWAC May 27 Schjei Country.jpg
Schjei Country

There'll be hand sanitizer, and go ahead and mask and social distance if you want to.

Other than that, the annual Concerts on the Courthouse Lawn appear to be back to normal. They are scheduled to start up on Thursday, May 27, at 7 p.m. on the lawn of the Douglas County Courthouse in Alexandria.

"We're doing our full 16-concert season," said Chuck Wencl, one of the organizers with the Red Willow Arts Coalition.

The season will start with the family group Schjei Country from the Brandon-Evansville area with their band and end Sept. 2 with Robby Vee. In between are other local groups, as well as musicians from Fargo and the Twin Cities.

"Every band we put on the lawn, we go and hear in person because we want to make sure they're not only good musicians but good entertainers because they have to entertain the crowd," Wencl said. "Our people want covers. They want tunes they recognize."


There are two exceptions to the in-person rule this year, and they each came highly recommended, and Wencl has heard them online. One is a John Denver cover band from the Twin Cities scheduled for June 24.

"I swear if you listen to the recordings, you'd think it was John Denver singing," he said.

The other is a Fargo band named Blue English, scheduled for July 1, which plays English and American rock from the Beatles era.

Only one band turned them down when he started pulling together the 2021 roster, Wencl said.

"Most of them are in their 50s and 60s and they said they're just not going to play this year," he said.

Red Willow has been organizing the concerts for 13 years. The musical tastes have changed as the demographics shifted from those born in the 1930s and 1940s to those born in the 1950s and 1960s.

"When we first started doing it, there was demand for Old Time," Wencl said. "As our crowd has gotten younger, people in their 60s and 70s, they grew up with rock 'n' roll. There's much less interest in Old Time and much more interest in rock.""

"When you get to rock music, there's great diversity in there too. A few years from now we'll have some music from the 1980s, maybe some hair bands," he joked.


Maybe in 50 years, some rap artists?

"Maybe, but I won't be there," he said, laughing.

One change this year is that there will be no rain venue for any of the bands, as the pandemic, even though it's been waning in Minnesota, still makes use of indoor venues uncertain. If an event is canceled due to bad weather, Red Willow will announce it by 3 p.m. the day of the concert.

"We want them to be comfortable. Whatever makes our clients comfortable, that's what we want them to do," Wencl said.

Here's the schedule for the 2021 performances:

May 27 Schjei Country. From Brandon, the Schjei family plus two other local musicians. Classic country and gospel music throughout the area for many years.

June 3 Live Wire Band. Three Sauk Centre area musicians call themselves “Classic Rock & Country” but play everything from polka to Top 40.

June 10 Nathan’s Old Time Band. This band, led by Nathan Neuman on concertina, is made up of musicians in their 20s started this band about 10 years ago.


June 17 Honky Tonk Stardust Cowboys. Traditional classic country music includes songs from Loretta, Roranne, Willie, Waylon and Merle, as well as some early rock and roll songs.

June 24 Country Roads – John Denver. A tribute show to one of America’s best-loved performers, with Dennis Curley and a six-piece band.

July 1 Blue English. This Fargo band features classic rock from both American and British influences with a playlist that spans decades.

July 4 Special Patriotic July 4th Concert. A sing-along includes patriotic tunes and gratitude to veterans.

July 8 Bob & The Beachcombers. Surfing hits of the 1960s, classic 1950s rock and roll, and favorites from the 1970s and the 1980s.

July 15 Stone Road. Country and rock.

July 22 Rockin’ Hollywoods. "Solid Gold Rock ‘n’ Roll” from the 1950s through the 1980s.

July 29 Blond & the Bohunk Band. A fixture on the Lakes Area music scene for many years.


Aug. 5 ‘70s Magic Sunshine Band. A tribute to 1970s AM radio, this band plays big hits from the 70s, from artists such as Tom Jones, Jim Croce, and the Bellamy Brothers.

Aug. 12 ‘57 Chevy Reunion Band. King Louie has long entertained throughout the Midwest from his Lakes Area home. He is rejoined by his 1990s band.

Aug. 19 Cimarron. Country Rock Band plays the music of bands like the Eagles, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and Dan Fogelberg.

Aug. 26 Red Letter Band. Their country, folks, blues and rock sound has landed them four Top Ten songs on the Inspirational Country Music charts.

Sept. 2 Robby Vee. The son of teen idol Bobby Vee, he performs his unique style of rock ‘n’ roll music across the globe.

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