It's going to be a Bandshell Bash Tillsonburg and area won't forget.
The Tillsonburg Kinsmen Club's first outdoor concert - and the Grand Opening of the new Kinsmen Bandshell - happens Friday, June 1st in Memorial Park.
Four bands will play from 6-11 p.m. starting with local country band Small Town Girls at 6 p.m., followed by Julia Haggarty from London, and the headliner, Bobby Wills.
"He (Wills) just came out with a new single and he's a rising star again," said Frank Kempf. "He's climbing right now. He just got booked at Boots and Hearts - a big event. So we're very happy to have him here, and he really wants to do the show for us here in Tillsonburg."
Wills is known for his signature cowboy hat and diverse musical personality. Nominated for multiple Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) awards from 2013-2016 and a Rising Star, his 2016 album Tougher Than Love is the fourth in his discography, and features two Top 10 hits. In December 2016, Wills was the third Top Charting Canadian on the BDS Country charts.
His current single is Out Of Your Mind (March 16, 2018 - MDM Recordings Inc./Universal Music Canada), which charted at No. 86 on March 19.
"We wanted a family event and Bobby appeals to everybody," Kempf added. "From younger fans all the way to seniors. He's a great performer and he's going to put on a great show. Whoever comes, they will be ecstatic."
The Mudmen, famous for their Celtic rock, close out the five-hour Bash. In the past decade, Mudmen have played locally at the Tillsonburg Fair, Otter Valley Playhouse, My Bar and Grill, the Royal, and Norma Jean's.
"The Mudmen are a high energy act," said Kempf. "We're going to get people ramped up when they get on stage."
Small Town Girls from Langton, who opened the Turtlefest Downtown Block Party entertainment last summer, recently accepted a slot in the 2018 Niagara Falls Coca-Cola Summer Concert Series.
"Actually, I have not heard Small Town Girls, but they did open for Brett Kissel," said Tillsonburg Kinsmen Club's John Danbrook, noting the Small Town Girls performed in North Bay on Feb. 23... their second time opening for the two-time Canadian country music male artist of the year.
"Kicking it with Kissel," Danbrook smiled.
Tickets are $28 in advance, available at Home Hardware, Chrissy's Corner Store and Danbrook Automotive in Tillsonburg, or online at ticketscene.ca (search for Bandshell Bash or Bobby Wills). A limited number of VIP tickets are also available for $50, which get fans up close to the stage, with access to VIP cash bar and washrooms - which means 'no lineups for washrooms, no lineups for food, no lineups for beer.'
"Four acts for $28, that's a good deal," said Danbrook.
"I think it's priced right," Kempf nodded. "I think everybody will be happy with the price."
It's the Kinsmen's first foray into big-name outdoor concerts, and it has been on their agenda since the summer of 2017 when the bandshell was unveiled during the NHL Centennial Fan Arena in August. It was the Kinsmen - and their dedicated, motivated and hard working members - who helped bring 10,000 people to Tillsonburg during the three-day NHL 100 event at the Community Centre.
"We have a good, strong, very motivated club," Danbrook noted. "Hard-working guys, good guys. Really good guys. Our club's probably in the best shape that it's ever been - for manpower and motivation - and I've been a Kinsmen since 1986.
"These guys are not only active in the Kinsmen Club, they're active in the community. It's a good, strong club."
Kempf, who helped bring 1,000-plus fans to Tillsonburg in 2014 to see Aaron Pritchett, and provided an spacious outdoor venue for High Valley in 2015, is assisting the Kinsmen.
"John thought about it first," said Kempf, a member of the Lake Lisgar Revitalization committee.
"And you assisted in the idea," said Danbrook, noting that Kempf is a former Kinsmen.
"I said I'd help them get their feet wet in that, and maybe they can make it something yearly," said Kempf.
Initially the club considered a two-day festival, but decided to focus on a single night for the Grand Opening. After some discussion between country and classic rock, they voted to feature country music for the first show.
The success of the 2018 Bandshell Bash will factor into whether the Kinsmen make it an annual event.
"We'll judge the event, see how it goes," said Danbrook. "If it's something we can handle and it generates good money to turn back into the community, for sure it'll be annual."
Proceeds will benefit the Lake Lisgar Revitalization Project, specifically to address an erosion issue near the base of the walking bridge at Lake Lisgar, and KIN community projects.
With two full months to promote the show, the Kinsmen are confident they can bring up to 2,000 people to the June 1st Bandshell Bash.
"We have lots of good people helping us with promotion and sponsorship," said Kempf. "And the Kinsmen's always a good team. You need to reach out... and we have a good team. We have 40 Kinsmen members, as wells other Kin in the area..."
It's all about getting the word out, said Danbrook, and helping people recognize the headliner, Bobby Wills, and his music.
"I do listen to country music, I did not know Bobby Wills," Danbrook admitted, "but as soon as I listened to his song, 'Oh I know that song!' We need to tell people who Bobby Wills is and what he sings - and people will come."
Gates will open on June 1st some time in the afternoon, and a beer tent and Kinette food booth will be set up in the pavilion area. Bringing your own seating (lawnchairs) is recommended.
"We're going to have some music there prior (to the 6 p.m. opening)," said Kempf, who noted show times are still tentative, but expects Wills to perform 90 minutes, and The Mudmen just over an hour.
A bandshell was something the Town of Tillsonburg wanted in its Community Parks, Recreation and Cultural Strategic Plan, said Danbrook, noting that over the years the Kinsmen have always donated to local sports - including minor soccer, hockey, swimming - but the arts have received less.
"So we decided that (bandshell) would be a big contribution in the area that we never really gave to before, in a significant way."
The finished product is a permanent structure in close proximity to the Memorial Park pavilion.
"I think it's an impressive looking structure," said Danbrook, noting it can be modified to allow retractable features like drop-down curtains. "And a nice addition to the park."
"We can retrofit it any way we want for whatever event it is," said Kempf. "Our sound tech will take care of that, he's got all that figured out. The backdrop and the sound, he doesn't see any issues with that at all."