Benson’s free summer concert series returns this week.
Sundown in Downtown will kick off its eighth year Tuesday, May 6, with The Embers featuring Craig Woolard. The Benson Area Chamber of Commerce will stage one concert a month through September, with heavy doses of beach music and oldies.
“It’s a time for the community to come together,” said Loretta Byrd, executive director of the Benson Area Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the shows.
Concerts start at 6 p.m. Half an hour before, DJ Steve Hardy plays music to get people dancing and excited. He also spins tunes during intermissions.
The shows are free. Sponsors pay for the bands to come to Benson and perform in the Singing Grove at 406 E. Main St. in the heart of downtown. About 1,500 to 2,000 people come to each show from all over the area, Byrd said.
Dancing is encouraged, Byrd said. The Singing Grove is an open green space, so people have to bring their owns chairs or blankets, which leaves room for dancing. Vendors sell hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, ice cream, funnel cakes and cotton candy, Byrd said. Chamber members set up tables to advertise their businesses.
Kids play on a nearby playground, and attendees can sit underneath the shade of the trees. Permanent bathrooms are behind the stage, and nearby parking is free.
Almost all the bands will play beach music and oldies. “It’s a genre of music that everyone seems to really enjoy and it brings out the most people to attend,” Byrd said. The series finishes in September with the Eric Strickland Band, which plays country music.
The full concert list is:
• Tuesday, May 6 – The Embers featuring Craig Woolard.
• Thursday, June 12 – The Band of Oz.
• Thursday, July 10 – The Mighty Saints of Soul.
• Thursday, August 14 – Jim Quick and the Coastline Band.
• Thursday, September 25 – The Eric Strickland Band.
In the case of rain, concerts are held in the American Building at 605 N. Wall St.
Byrd said the concerts are a great way to spend time outside and relax with family and friends. She said each concert is like a big family reunion. “People see each other that they haven’t seen in years,” she said. “A lot of times they’ll run into friends and acquaintances that they knew years ago. It’s a nice time.”
“Once you come one time, most people don’t miss anymore concerts,” Byrd added. “I’ve had people tell me that they chose us over going to Raleigh and they’re glad they did because they just love the atmosphere.”
For more information, call the Benson Area Chamber of Commerce at 919-894-3825.