MONTICELLO — There was music at Allerton Park last year, but it was of the mobile variety with people driving through the park and listening to specially-recorded concerts on their radios as the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered public events and festivals.
With the state heading toward a full reopening the 8-year-old concert series returns to the Gatehouse Lawn at the Monticello-area venue this summer, with at least six concerts planned.
There is still a focus on safety at the University of Illinois-owned park and retreat center. Tickets are free, but pre-registration will be required this year for the first time.
Organizers are also changing the format to more concerts, and shifting from Friday nights to Thursdays and Sundays in an effort to keep the crowds to predetermined limits.
“We're kind of shaking things up this year. It's going to look a lot different,” Allerton Park & Retreat Center Event Manager Ashley Sims said.
But more concerts means some of the fan favorites — like Irish Fest — will be joined by some new genres.
“We'll still have a little bit of Irish, we're going to do some Cajun creole music, some funk music, some blues, some folk music. There will be a little bit of everything for everybody.
“It will still be on the Gatehouse lawn, the same format, we'll have a stage, some food trucks, invite everyone to come out and bring their own chairs and picnics and things like that,” Sims added.
Original plans are to keep crowds to about 400 per concert, but that could be expanded as the area continues to come out of COVID-19 restrictions.
“We're rolling with the punches,” Sims said.
The Thursday night outings on July 1, 29 and Aug. 5 and 26 will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Opening things up on July 1 will be local favorite Billy Galt and The Blues Deacons. Booked for Aug. 5 is Dennis Stroughmatt's Cajun/creole sounds, and the funk band Reckasto will be featured the evening of Aug. 26.
Sunday shows — including the Irish music of Broken Brogue on Aug. 15, will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bands for the other shows will be announced later.
Another concert is being planned for September, and the Allerton Music Barn Festival will be held in collaboration with the University of Illinois School of Music in October.
The University of Illinois Community Credit Union has once again signed on as the presenting sponsor for the Series, along with The Ayers Family, Kirby Medical Center, Herbold Family Trust, Monahan Partners, and AHW INC.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the support of this community, and we’re so grateful for that,” Allerton Director Derek Peterson said. “This year will be another celebration of that community, and celebrating being able to come together to enjoy music and nature together at the Park.”
Registration for the concerts will open at 10 a.m. Thursday (June 3) at allerton.illinois.edu.