As Sherman’s annual concert series prepares to come to a close for 2020, organizers are calling this year’s event a success.
Despite difficulties related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,city officials said they were happy to have had decent attendance during the majority of Hot Summer Nights, the city’s weekly free public concert series each summer.
The concert series will conclude this week when 2000s alternative rock band Lit performs on the Sherman Municipal Building grounds on Thursday.
"We definitely went into this year with lower expectations for crowd size," Tourism and Main Street Manager Sarah McRae said. "There are a lot more variables this year with concerns from the public and for ourselves, but I think it went well. I think it was as good as you could expect for a year like this."
Throughout the planning process for this year’s concert series, organizers on several occasions said they planned to continue on with the concert series, if at all possible. Some hurdles in the way included state-wide restrictions on large gatherings without consent of a local municipality, in early July and other restrictions throughout the spring.
"I am thankful that we have leadership that wanted to see this tradition continue," McRae said.
McRae said attendance has been markedly lower than previous years, but this was expected by organizers. The largest crowds for this year would have been medium-sized crowds on previous years, she said.
"We haven’t had more than we could handle for any of our shows and I am thankful for that," she said. "The sizes have been reasonable for what we are living in right now."
So far, William Clark Green and Tracy Byrd attracted the largest audiences, but country music traditionally does well with Sherman crowds, McRae said.
"We know each year when we are planning it that country is really popular. It did what we expected and brought in the bigger crowds," she said.
Former Creed front man Scott Stapp also attracted a sizable crowd, she added.
McRae said she expects Lit to be a draw for the final show. In recent years, organizers are tried to schedule a known act for the final show in order to draw crowds, as July typically sees a lull in attendance.
With the ongoing pandemic, McRae said organizers put in place several procedures to keep people safe, including marking out spaces on the lawn to create room between groups.
Another approach that has proven popular has been live streaming the concerts via Facebook. Initially organizers had difficulty live streaming the shows, but quality improved after a physical data line was laid from the municipal building to the concert site.
"It has proven to be really popular with people who aren’t able to or don’t want to get out," she said. " It is a great way to get people to join us, but in a normal year we would want to get people out because we fund these shows with hotel-motel taxes. This year we went int oit knowing our goals would be different."
McRae said the live streaming component could return in future years, but it would be dependent on approval from the acts.
McRae said the biggest takeaway that she has had from this year’s concert series has been how cooperative crowds have been to the changes. While at first she expected some push back, but was instead met with kindness.
"I was nervous going into it about questions and comments I received," she said. "I feel there was grace and most people are just happy that we are having shows. I think going into this with a little bit of kindness is great this year."
Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.