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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Calendar > Arts and Culture

Bethel Woods optimistic for 2021

By Matt Shortall - co-editor

Depending on the public health situation later this summer, Carlos Santana (seen here performing at Bethel Woods during the 50th anniversary of Woodstock in 2019) is scheduled to return in August.
By Matt Shortall

BETHEL — Bethel Woods Center for the Arts may have been forced to cancel its pavilion season last year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, but there's encouraging signs that the sounds of music will return this summer.
On their website, Bethel Woods has already announced a handful of concert dates for July and August - including James Taylor, Steely Dan with special guest Steve Winwood, the Black Crowes, Kidz Bop and Carlos Santana with Earth, Wind and Fire.
“We remain optimistic,” said Chief Executive Officer Eric Frances. “We're seeing a lot of activity now in August where artists are at least talking about working and wanting to get out, which is good. Some of the news out of Albany has been very positive for us. Some of the governor's recent statements in his various state of the state addresses have been positive news that we can hopefully open in some safe way in 2021.

While he'd love to see everything back to normal by this summer, Frances said they have to play it by ear and are prepared for different scenarios - including reopening at a reduced capacity, instituting staggered seating in the pavilion and controlled access to communal areas like food services and restrooms. Using different fields to have “drive-in” concerts is also possible.
“We've mapped out a whole bunch of different scenarios on how to do it,” Frances explained. “We've seen some of that done in Europe where they have concerts and they've set up painted circles or other areas where people can be together and still six feet apart.”
However, a lot of it comes down to what kind of conditions the artists and performers are willing to work in that aren't too cost prohibitive.
For some performers, their revenue model is based on selling out a venue. Operating at a fraction of the venue's total capacity could be reflected in ticket prices and in other ways.
Volunteers needed
In another sign that Bethel Woods is planning for whatever the summer may bring, they'll be hosting a Virtual Volunteer Open House for prospective volunteers on February 10 from 6 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Despite all the cancellations in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bethel Woods, a 501(c)3 nonprofit cultural organization, says that volunteers donated almost 5,000 hours.
“We cannot thank our volunteers enough for the time, dedication, and passion they contribute to Bethel Woods each year,” said Frances. “Our events and programs would not be the same without their support and generosity.”
Although the concert season was canceled last year, Bethel Woods still attracted visitors with various programs and events.
This year's drive-through “Peace, Love & Lights powered by Healey Brothers” light show attracted 12,000 cars - or around 40,000 people.
“That was a great thing for the community. That little event became something I think we'll look to do again,” Frances said.
Although the winter months are usually when Bethel Woods focuses on maintenance and other housekeeping tasks, Frances said they will continue to reach out to their audiences through “Bethel Woods @ Home,” a virtual program they've begun.
This spring should see the opening of a new special exhibit at the Museum. There's also plans to bring back their virtual augmented reality tour that began in August where people can walk the Bethel Woods grounds with an iPad and learn about all the different things that happened during the 1969 Woodstock Musical Festival.
“That was a great, socially distanced activity to be able to offer to people,” Frances said. “That too will open up in the spring when we get the museum open.”
Like many nonprofits, operating through the pandemic has been a challenge.
“We're very lucky that our board of trustees has helped keep us afloat during this time,” Frances said, explaining how one member of their board was matching donations dollar for dollar. “Bethel Woods was very blessed that our full-time staff remained working.”

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