The following is a news release from Ashford Manor announcing the end of its "Concerts on the Lawn" series.
After 12 years, Ashford Manor Bed and Breakfast in Watkinsville is ending its popular "Concerts on the Lawn" series on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 3. The final concert will feature The Sensational Sounds of Motown, with gates opening at 5 p.m. Sept. 3, and the concert running from 6 to 9 p.m.
Ashford Manor proprietors Mario Castro and David Shearon said they were saddened to end the series, which drew monthly crowds of around 500 to1,000 people to the four-acre estate -- the second largest concert venue in the Athens area. They cited economic reasons as well as dwindling attendance for bringing the series to an end.
“It’s been a tremendously hard decision,” said Shearon, “one of the toughest we’ve had to make since we’ve been here.”
Will you miss the "Concerts on the Lawn" series? Share about your experiences in the comments below.
Shearon and Castro, along with Shearon’s brother Jim Shearon, opened the bed and breakfast in 1997 and began the concert series three years later. For 11 years, the concerts took place nearly every Monday night from May through October. But attendance had dropped significantly in the last few years. This year, the series had been scaled back to just four concerts, and were poorly attended, Shearon and Castro said.
“The amount of work that goes into turning the back yard of this business into a concert venue 10 to 12 times a summer – and then back again to a business the next day -- is just huge,” Shearon said, noting everything from electrical support to bringing in portable toilets. “It was a big undertaking, but certainly one we were glad to do when we had a bigger audience.”
Castro said he felt the series had simply run its course. “It’s not like Chastain, where they’re drawing from 4 million people; we’re drawing from the same small population, so I think that’s why it was really just losing its momentum.”
The community-mindedness of the series is something Castro and Shearon said they’d miss the most.
“It brought people from the area out not just to hear great music, but to reconnect with friends they maybe hadn’t seen in a while,” Castro said. “And it also was a place where families could come to hear great bands without having to go into downtown Athens at 11 o’clock at night. So I know it’ll be a real loss for a lot of people, whether they’d been coming to the shows regularly or not,” he added.
The series was sponsored by a number of local businesses, with major sponsorship from Athens First Bank and Trust.
Myung Cogan, Vice President at AFB&T said: “Athens First Bank & Trust has been a proud sponsor of the Ashford Manor Concerts on the Lawn for over 10 years. As a corporate citizen, supporting this unique, community based and family friendly series aligned with our company’s mission to improve quality of life in our communities. It has been our pleasure to witness the enjoyment throughout the years.”
The final concert will be dedicated to first responders, volunteer firefighters and law enforcement in Oconee County; members of any of these organizations can present a badge or identification for 1 free admittance.
While the concerts have ended, Castro and Shearon said it’s not the end of events on the property. Shearon said they’ll continue to support the arts, with plans in the works for a quarterly invitational art exhibition in Ashford On Main, the adjoining banquet facility next door to the Bed & Breakfast Manor House on South Main Street. And the proprietors will continue to extend the use of the property to theater groups, musicians and other performing arts groups.
“It’s really part of our un-stated mission to support the arts as much as we possibly can,” said Shearon, “and part of that is because since we moved here, we’ve always felt this property really belongs to the community. So we want to make sure people feel welcome here and feel it’s a place they can come to take in not just the grounds and the history, but part of the artistry that’s so abundant in this area.”
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