Dog Mountain Concert Series To Kick-Off In July

by Todd Wellington (published in the Caledonian-Record, Apr 29, 2017; Updated Apr 30, 2017)

There’s a new concert series coming to town this year and it promises to be no ordinary event.

Catamount Arts, in partnership with the non-profit Levitt Foundation of Los Angeles, California, is producing 12 weeks of concerts at Dog Mountain on Spaulding Road from July 16 to mid-September. All the shows are free, dog friendly and open to the public.

“The whole idea of theses concerts is to build community,” said Catamount Arts Executive Director Jody Fried at a meeting of the St. Johnsbury Select Board Monday. Fried was at the meeting requesting approval to contract with St. Johnsbury Police for security at the shows. The request was granted and while he was there Fried briefed the board about the series.

“They’re free and we’re gonna have a shuttle running up there and so we’re hoping that we’ll have lots of residents partaking in it,” said Fried. “We’ll be happy if this first year we have 300-500 people at these concerts. We could have a lot more than that. We’re doing a lot of work to promote it.”

The artist line-up has not been announced yet but Fried said it would include “Grammy nominated” acts. The concerts will be held on the new portable main stage unit Catamount just purchased. There will also be a beer tent on site.

Fried said the Levitt Foundation has a long history of producing similar concerts across the country.

“This is what they do,” said Fried. “They run six permanent venues that are 10,000 person-plus venues and then they have 15 locations across the country that are in rural areas.”

Fried qualified that statement by noting that St. Johnsbury may be the only actual “rural” community hosting Levitt concerts this summer which were chosen by public voting.

“I would say St. Johnsbury is an anomaly,” said Fried. “The next closest in terms of size is 80 thousand people in population and they go up to 400,000 in population.”

“The first step in this was public voting. There were 50 applications submitted and we came in 2nd place in the country out of those 50 applications in terms of the votes for – so we really mobilized and it had to be unique votes so they actually checked to make sure that the same person wasn’t voting more than once,” said Fried.

“It was funny, when we went out to Los Angeles and met with all these folks the first thing they asked was how the heck did you do it with the population that you have? And we responded when it comes to these arts and culture events we have major support. So I think we ended up with over 3,000 votes who’s pretty significant if you consider our population.

St. Johnsbury Selectman Jamie Murphy said he thought the concert series at Dog Mountain was an great idea.

“I think it’s a great event for St. Johnsbury and I think the town should support it any way we can,” said Murphy. Murphy abstained from voting on the police request because the Kingdom Tap Room – of which he is part owner – hopes to provide the beer for the event.

Selectman Jeff Jeff Moore also spoke in favor of the concerts.

“I think it’s a good idea and a good opportunity to promote our town,” said Moore.

Fried said other communities across the country have used the Levitt concerts to boost their local economies long term.

“We would certainly like the town to be involved and to leverage this,” said Fried. “This is something that will hopefully bring some positive energy to the whole community.”

“When we went out there and we met with these towns – the ones that have done it multiple years that are in like year 2, 3 or 4 – what’s happened in terms of their towns and the transformation that’s taken place has been pretty remarkable. Private investment has come in, there’s been housing in some of the locations. I can really see this having a catalytic effect if we can get behind it.

“You know, we sit through meetings and we talk about how do you get the young professionals to come into to town. This is the kind of stuff they want to come to and bring their families to,” said Fried.