The return of the Hickory Ridge Concert Series
A long-running concert series in western Illinois is coming back, though in a different venue for at least the next few months.
The Hickory Ridge Concert Series has been around since the early 1990s, said musician Chris Vallillo, who hosts the series.
The series took place at the Dickson Mounds museum in Lewistown for many years, and at the Lewistown Visitors Center for a few years when former Gov. Bruce Rauner closed the state museum system during Illinois’ two-year state budget impasse.
Vallillo hosted livestream shows when the pandemic hit. Those continued until December 2021, and now he feels it is time to return to live, in-person performances.
“I have to start the series up again or I’m going to lose the audience. It’s been two years since we’ve been in a space with a live performance,” Vallillo said.
But he said the state has yet to grant permission for outside groups to use Dickson Mounds, so he said he will instead hold concerts this summer in Fulton County at the Ellisville Opera House, which dates back to 1891.
“It’s a second story venue as most opera houses were in rural Illinois. It is almost completely intact. It is a remarkable room, just a little gem sitting out there on the Illinois prairie,” he said.
“It has the original painted backdrop that the old opera houses had with advertising and scenery. They have a stage, and professional sound and lights in place.”
He said the facility does not yet have an elevator so the second story is accessible only via stairs.
The first show will be this Saturday, June 11. The doors open at 6:00 p.m. and the show begins at 7:00 p.m. It will feature bluegrass guitarist Eric Lambert and his musical partner, Char.
“He is an outstanding, award winning bluegrass guitarist. And Char has one of those classic, Patsy Cline-type voices,” Vallillo said.
He also plans to host concerts on July 16 and August 20 at the opera house.
Admission for each show is $10.
“I have enough money in our account to produce three shows. If we get enough income through ticket sales and donations, we’ll continue the series, though I don’t know where. Time will tell,” he said.
Vallillo also said they will follow the long-held tradition of serving pie at intermission.
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