The current Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center was built by the Town of Simsbury in 2005 to provide a home for the Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s summer music festival, the Talcott Mountain Music Festival (TMMF). The decision to build a performing arts center grew from several important considerations. The HSO’s Talcott Mountain Music Festival enjoyed great enthusiasm and support for its musical programs, especially the Fourth of July Celebrate America Concert; a number of town residents stepped forward to help a dream become reality; and, perhaps most importantly, space became available in Simsbury Center.
The Talcott Mountain Music Festival first took place in 1996 on The Hartford Insurance property on Hopmeadow Street. When The Hartford’s space was needed for other uses, the TMMF moved down the road to a corn field on the property of Northeast Utilities. It was there that the 1812 Overture performance was first punctuated by firing a real cannon. Located as we were on the glide path to Bradley Airport, this required no small amount of persuasive skills!
In 2002, the Town of Simsbury acquired the Baker Farm – 400+ scenic acres nestled between the Farmington River and the Town Center. For the next few years, performances took place, as they had at previous locations, in a temporary band shell.
Simsbury’s population is vibrant, educated and creative, and residents embraced the new location. Concert goers who had lived in towns across the country shared pleasant memories of summer evenings spent at local outdoor concerts, and support for our own local venue grew. It soon became clear that a permanent solution was both needed and desired, and so the dream of the Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center on the Baker property took root.
In 2004-2005 an enthusiastic group of residents, in partnership with the Town of Simsbury, developed plans and gathered funds, through a State DECD grant and private fund-raising, to build the current Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center. Built in time for the 2005 TMMF season, the new, permanent Performing Arts Center stage is large enough for the full Hartford Symphony Orchestra and includes additional storage space, better lighting and enhanced acoustics. It was an enormous improvement and an immediate hit.
With the facility in place, other promoters have brought name entertainment to the venue, including Alison Krauss, The Beach Boys, Kansas, The Temptations, Cirque De La Symphonie, Earth, Wind and Fire, The Four Tops, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Amanda Carr, Harry Connick, Jr., and Emmy Lou Harris.
In 2012, the Town Board that had been managing the facility contracted with the Webb Group, entertainment industry consultants, to assess the operation and potential of the Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center.
The Webb Group determined that the facility was under-utilized yet had potential to become an entertainment destination. They also recommended that management be vested in a private non-profit company which could comprehensively book entertainment and oversee all aspects of the facility. In December 2013, the Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center, Inc. established an agreement with the Town of Simsbury to manage the Performing Arts Center.