Guthrie Thanksgiving (copy)

The Guthrie Center in Great Barrington will reopen Thursday with longtime Arlo Guthrie pal Rick Robbins telling some Ramblin’ Jack Elliott stories and singing some of his songs. “We’re having a regular hootenanny,” said center director George Laye.

GREAT BARRINGTON — After a year-and-a-half without in-person music, The Guthrie Center reopens Thursday with the "Ramblin' Hoot and Annie's (Guthrie) Birthday!," hosted by Rick Robbins.

Robbins, who is stepping in for the previously announced concert by Ramblin' Jack Elliott, is a longtime friend of Arlo Guthrie. Together, Guthrie, 18, and Robbins, 19, illegally dumped trash on the side of the road in Stockbridge on Thanksgiving Day 1965.

They were arrested and charged the next day, and later, each paid a $25 fine after pleading guilty to illegally disposing of rubbish. The incident inspired the now-iconic Guthrie protest ballad, "Alice's Restaurant Massacree," and the subsequent film. 

Elliott was scheduled to kick off a season of performances at the 2 Van Deusenville Road center. Instead, said George Laye, director of the Guthrie Center, Robbins will “tell some [Ramblin'] Jack stories and sing some Jack songs, and we’re having a regular hootenanny.”

The ticket price was reduced from $65 to $5. Amy Loveless, head chef of the Dreamaway Lodge, will cook a full menu for the show. She also is the cook for The Guthrie Center this summer.

Laye said preparations for reopening, aided by volunteers from the community, have been hectic but fun.

“I’ve been doing this kind of stuff all my life, and there are things you forget if you’re not in that rhythm,” he said. “We’re almost like a bunch of new employees learning what to do again because we’ve just been out of the loop of doing it every day.”

The center had a “soft opening” over Memorial Day weekend, and it waited until July 15 for an official reopening, out of an abundance of caution, according to Laye. Capacity for indoor shows has been reduced from 100 to 80, and unvaccinated audience members must wear masks.

The musical performances this summer will provide money for the center’s services, which include free community lunches every Wednesday. The center resumed in-person, indoor lunches — it served to-go lunches throughout most of the coronavirus pandemic — a couple of weeks ago.

Upcoming performances include Urban Renewal on July 23-24; the Guthrie family Aug. 7; Seth Glier on Aug. 20; and Tom Rush and Matt Nakoa on Sept. 2-3. Also, the center will resume “musical Mondays,” at which people can borrow instruments for free to try them out.

Terry A La Berry and Friends, a kids band, will play two free shows Aug. 13 and Aug. 27 at 10 a.m. Additionally, the Terry A La Berry exhibit “45 years with Arlo” runs through Aug. 1. Visitors are welcome from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays.

For all the shows this summer, the doors open at 6:30 p.m. for an 8 p.m. performance. For tickets, call 413-528-1955, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.