News Column

Down East amphitheater to premiere new venue with country music star

June 29, 2014

By Tim Cox, Bangor Daily News, Maine



June 29--COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine -- A message on the Balsam Valley Amphitheater website reads, "If you build it, they will come," alluding to the 1989 film, "Field of Dreams," in which Kevin Costner's character hears a mysterious voice telling him to just that.

Costner's character then plows under a portion of the cornfield on his Iowa farm in order to build a baseball field. Morrill Worcester, owner of Harrington-based Worcester Wreath Co., has similarly built his amphitheater in the middle of nowhere, you might say, and now he wants people to come.

The Balsam Valley Amphitheater will hold its first concert July 5. It will feature country music star John Michael Montgomery.

The amphitheater is located in a remote area of Columbia Falls near the town line with Jonesboro, adjacent to U.S. Route 1. It was carved out of a forest of balsam fir trees, which Worcester's business uses to make wreaths. The stage is at the foot of a hill that was cleared and seeded in grass. The hillside and area in front of the stage can seat an estimated 16,000. There will be reserved seating on folding chairs for 1,500 for the Montgomery concert.

"It's kind of unique because it's so rural," acknowledged Rob Worcester, son of the company owner and vice president of Worcester Wreath. He and his sister-in-law, Renee Worcester, have been leading the company's development of the amphitheater.

"As far as the venue itself, I think it's as good as any I've ever seen," Worcester said when he discussed the amphitheater and the upcoming concert.

The Sunrise Trail, used by many all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts, travels by the venue. In fact, Worcester suggested the Sunrise Trail is "probably one of the best ways to come for convenience." The venue has limited parking, though shuttle bus service will be provided from other suitable parking facilities in the area -- those include Worcester Wreath Co. facilities, such as a nearby site further north on Route 1, and a shopping center on Route 1 in Columbia.

The number of concerts or other events to be held at the amphitheater in the future will depend on how well initial bookings are received.

"I guess it's to be determined," Worcester said. "We're having a lot of fun with it. We're hopeful that the show will cover its expenses."

He is hoping to draw 2,000 to 3,000 people for this week's concert.

"If we know we can draw for an event, we'll put a whole schedule together," Worcester added.

He envisions perhaps three other concerts this summer and fall if the first one shows promise. The concerts likely would feature mainly country music artists, he indicated, though a fall concert may be scheduled for bluegrass music fans.

Worcester said he would be amenable to hosting performance by local musicians at the venue. "If they want to put together something, we'd love to do it," he said.

"We're not interested in trying to get rich on it," Worcester said. "We're doing it for the fun and the area. ... As long as it's paying its way, we'd love to go with it."

Veterans will always be admitted for free. "That's something we're always going to do," said Worcester. Veterans should call 207-812-3877 to reserve a seat.

It is actually the second concert to be staged at the facility, which was somewhat birthed in controversy.

Worcester Wreath Co. supplies wreaths for Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit organization led by Morrill Worcester's wife, Karen. Wreaths Across America is known for providing wreaths to adorn the graves at Arlington National Cemetery during the Christmas season.

Wreaths Across America maintained a lighted Christmas tree in Bar Harbor for two years, a tribute to veterans, particularly those who served in World War II. However, the resort city council decided last fall it no longer wanted the memoriam.

Wreaths Across America held a ceremony in Bar Harbor in October, then removed the lights and transported them via caravan to Columbia Falls. The organization maintains a lighted balsam fir tree near the entrance to the Balsam Valley Amphitheater, which was constructed in order to host a concert featuring Lee Greenwood -- known for his signature song, "God Bless the USA" -- in conjunction with the transfer of the Christmas lights.

They have made some additional improvements since last fall, Worcester said, such as relocating concessions and portable bathrooms. "It's going to be a lot nicer," he said.

Wreaths Across America is planning a car show on the grounds in advance of the concert as a fundraiser for the organization.

For more information about the concert or venue or to purchase tickets, visit www.balsamvalley.com.

___

(c)2014 the Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine)

Visit the Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine) at www.bangordailynews.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Bangor Daily News (ME)


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