The Freeman Stage Embarking On 10th Season; Summer Line-Up Announcement Next Week

The Freeman Stage Embarking On 10th Season; Summer Line-Up Announcement Next Week
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SELBYVILLE – New features surrounding The Freeman Stage at Bayside will better accommodate the patrons and artists leading the venue into its 10th season.

Alyson Cunningham, communications and public relations manager for the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation – the nonprofit that runs the Freeman Stage – said notable additions will propel the venue into its next stage of growth, all-the-while maintaining the foundation’s mission to present memorable performances and inspired arts education.

These new accommodations – a 40-by-40 foot mobile stage, a new ticket vendor and additional gathering space along Arts Alley – will offer the ever-growing number of community members and artists with the comforts of a larger venue.

Since its launch in 2008, The Freeman Stage has attracted more than 322,000 patrons, according to foundation Executive Director Patti Grimes, who added that numbers continue to rise. For example, 13,500 patrons visited the stage in its first season, but by the 2016 season that number swelled to 62,000.

She said the new stage will replace the wooden platform, affectionately referred to by staff as “the little stage that could,” and will improve the experience for both artists and event-goers.

“This will allow us to better accommodate some of these larger national recording artists and also create a safe backstage area for our production crew and the artists,” she said. “For the patrons, the benefit is that all of our equipment will be in one area on the stage. So visibility will be better for patrons in 2017.”

Grimes said the foundation takes suggestions from event-goers who complete surveys at the end of each season.

“We use that as a platform and then we create a little matrix to make sure we cover the gambit since we are about diversity in the arts,” she said.

Although surveys contain suggestions for next year’s entertainment, Cunningham said many of the 3,000 individuals who participated in last year’s survey expressed the need for a larger gathering space near food trucks located at the venue.

“Last year, we partnered with local food trucks to offer more variety and more food choices, but there weren’t a lot of places they could sit and enjoy that food beforehand,” she said. “So they can expect more places to gather, more seating, on what we call Arts Alley.”

With the patrons in mind, Cunningham added that event-goers can also expect a new ticket vendor, Eventbrite.

“Before they even get to the stage itself, we hope that this new ticket vendor will enhance their experience and make it a better, easier process on how they get tickets from us,” she said.

More seating and space are planned this season for patrons to enjoy the food trucks on hand and Arts Alley at The Freeman Stage. Submitted Photo

More seating and space are planned this season for patrons to enjoy the food trucks on hand and Arts Alley at The Freeman Stage. Submitted Photo

In addition to the new features, Grimes said officials with The Freeman Stage will celebrate its 10th season with storytelling throughout the year, where people will be able to share their experiences and favorite memories at the venue.

Grimes said each performance is memorable in its own way, but added that the reactions from the crowd are priceless.

“Really what touches me is when I look out in the audience and I see people singing along, dancing and smiling,” she said. “That’s really when I know that we have done our job for this community.”

In 2007, Chairman and President Michelle Freeman formed the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation in her late husband’s honor. Since that time, Grimes said the foundation has formed three other programs – arts in entertainment, outreach and volunteer.

In recent years, the officials said programs have grown to include 200-plus volunteers, more than 58,000 students and a multitude of performing artists – of whom they acquire from three yearly conferences and discussions with numerous agents.

“This is much bigger than Josh,” Grimes said. “This is much bigger than one person. This is a community coming together and saying that the arts are essential. Josh would be proud that we’ve taken an idea and made it bigger than just one person. The community has responded to support us as a nonprofit.”

Officials with the foundation will launch its 10th season on March 15, when they will announce the performance lineup for 2017. For more information, visit

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.