Folk singers reopen Oak Center general store


Nothing has hurt like having independent music venues shut down.

The Simonets, who play Curtis & Loretta, open the Oak Center General Store Fall Music Series at 8 p.m. on Saturday, November 20.

The place, inactive for much of the pandemic, is looking for volunteers to restart the music hall above the farm store.

The couple hope that their next concert will provide a good start to the season. The summer folk music festivals were busier than usual, said Loretta Simonet, but even so, folk music was never the most popular genre.

“All of these places exist because they are works of love,” said Curtis Simonet. “I think some of them will probably be lost.”


Donations are collected for the store during the weekly Saturday concerts at the Oak Center General Store on Saturday, November 30, 2019 in Lake City.  (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

Donations are collected for the store during the weekly Saturday concerts at the Oak Center General Store on Saturday, November 30, 2019 in Lake City. (Traci Westcott / [email protected])

The Simonets have had a decades-long relationship with the Oak Center General Store, 67011 US 63, Lake City, since Jerry Rau, the man known as “Minnesota Minstrel”, took the couple to a benefit concert and introduced them to owner Steven Schwen.

It’s been a long, hard month for the general store, Schwen said, starting with the complete collapse of a 40-year volunteer system that kept the place buzzing.

Although some dedicated Oak Center volunteers continued to meet during the pandemic, it continues to get things done after nearly two years of “hibernation.” A group showed up last Sunday to remove trash from the century-old community hall, but Saturday’s show is largely a test of how the season unfolds, Schwen said.

“We’ll see if people still want to get in their cars and drive to watch music,” he said. “I think there is still an interest in that.”

The Oak Center has a history, decades of city dancing, vaudeville shows and weird chicken sales, said Loretta Simonet – a story not found anywhere else.

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful place,” said Curtis Simonet. “It’s an honor to play there, and we hope to help it reopen.

Curtis and Loretta will perform songs from the 2015 record “When There’s Good To Be Done,” a series of stories about the people of southeastern Minnesota who performed acts of daily heroism. They will sprinkle new songs, inspired by the pandemic.

“You’ve achieved things that are important and things that you want to get rid of,” Loretta said.

The Simonets’ winter will be full of live streaming shows – they see them as radio shows, to overcome the awkwardness of playing in an empty room – and performing weekly for assisted living centers. The pair are already planning to play “100 Christmas Shows” and then need another month to get “Jingle Bells” out of their heads.

If you are going to

What: Curtis & Loretta, musical reopening of the Oak Center

When: 8 p.m. Saturday 20 November

Or: Oak Center General Store

Cost: $ 15 in advance, $ 18 at the door. Call 507-753-2080 or visit oakcentergeneralstore.com for more information.


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