Summer concert series to celebrate Red Barn’s 40th anniversary
July 1st, 2009
Back in the 1970s, a marquee near the corner of Brook and Brandeis streets announced which bands were rocking the University of Louisville’s Red Barn Friday and Saturday nights.
A neon sign outside the building let people know the barn was sold out. Lines extended out the door. There was a one-person-in, one-person-out policy to accommodate the crowds.
“We sold out a lot of concerts those days,” said George Howe, UofL’s first director of student activities. He now serves as the director of Red Barn programs.
This summer, operators of the George J. Howe Red Barn hope to reignite some of the excitement of yesteryear.
The second annual concert series “Summerfest: Come Back to the Barn” kicks off July 11 and continues through Aug. 14. UofL faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community are encouraged attend and to celebrate the barn’s 40th anniversary.
The Red Barn Alumni Association will sponsor the first show, the Red Barn 40th Year Reunion Concert featuring Kessler’s Friends, from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. July 11.
The series continues with:
- Nervous Melvin and the Mistakes – July 17, 5 p.m.–7:30 p.m.
- The Tymes Band – Aug. 7, 5 p.m.–7:30 p.m.
- The Vinyl Kings – Aug. 14, 5 p.m.–7:30 p.m.
All shows are free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted at the door and will go toward the cost of the shows and to benefit UofL students. Food and drinks will be available.
The first student event held at the Red Barn was in 1969. The building was a remnant of Caldwell Tanks Inc. A 5,000-square-foot factory building, which UofL owned, it had been abandoned for nearly a year when Harold Adams, then UofL’s director of housing, and Gary Steedly, a fraternity adviser, helped students rent the Red Barn for a year-end beer party. More than 300 people attended.
The party not only was a huge success, but it also inspired students to ask the university to save the building.
At the time, the university did not have a student activities center.
Stuart Neff, Student Activities coordinator for special projects, was a UofL student during the 1970s. He recalled that the barn became the place to be on campus and that it regularly had concerts and social gatherings.
“It even became a community hot spot,” Neff said. “All of the hottest bands that played at bars were there. It became part of that circuit.”
In 1978, the building again faced closure when urban renewal required that it be renovated. Howe, students and staff led a fundraising drive to pay for those renovations.
Two years later, the Red Barn was brought into the national spotlight. On May 2, 1980, ABC hosted “Friday Night Live at the Kentucky Derby.” Frank Gifford and Sandy Hill were hosts for the program and it featured a concert by musician Dan Fogelberg.
Fogelberg unveiled his Derby-inspired song “Run for the Roses.”
Dale Ramsay, director of intramural sports, said he was at UofL interviewing for a job at the time and someone gave him a ticket to the ABC show. Once inside, he made his way to the sixth row for close-up view of Fogelberg.
“It was my first experience at the Red Barn,” Ramsay said. “I saved that ticket. I eventually gave it to George.”
In the 1990s, UofL built the Swain Student Activities Center next to the Red Barn and more student activities moved to the larger facility.
But the Red Barn has remained a vital part of campus, providing a venue for student, faculty, staff, alumni and community events. This year, the barn is expected to host more than 700 events.
In addition to concerts and other social activities, the Red Barn programs office has committed itself to helping UofL students. The office administers three endowed programs to benefit UofL students: the Harold Adams Memorial Scholarship Fund, the Red Barn Alumni Association Florence M. Strickler Endowment, and the Torchbearer Endowment and Program.
These three endowed programs have provided 900 scholarships totaling more than $150,000 to UofL students since 1988.
Part of the money raised from the concerts this summer will go toward those endowments.
“We really hope people come out this summer,” Howe said. “We’d love a huge crowd.”
Synonymous: George Howe and the Red Barn