Ryan redcoat

Busker Ryan Eason, a second generation magician, promises to heat up Basalt’s “Wednesday Night Live” series this summer. Traveling outdoor entertainment in downtown Basalt and Willits will temporarily supplant the concert series and, according to organizers, adhere to proper social distancing guidelines.

Social distancing put the kibosh on Basalt’s summer music series for 2020, but a collaboration between the town, Basalt Chamber of Commerce and The Arts Campus at Willits will instead bring traveling entertainers to people who are shopping or dining in the historic downtown and Willits Town Center.

The program for “Wednesday Night Live,” which runs June 24 to Aug.19, features buskers — street performers who run the gamut from musicians to magicians, jugglers and comedians — strolling the streets through Basalt’s main business districts from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

“People can enjoy the entertainment while they’re out shopping and dining,” said Ryan Honey, TACAW’s executive director.

The idea for “Wednesday Night Live” evolved out of discussions with the three entities, who were searching for ways to present arts programming in a safe way, he said.

TACAW’s artistic director, Marc Breslin, is in the process of booking both local buskers and those drawn from the Front Range.

“We’ll have six to eight buskers each week. It could be comedy, jazz or a guy on a tricycle,” Breslin said Wednesday.

Busker and second generation magician Ryan Eason, son of local Doc Eason (two-time Academy of Magic Arts’ Close Up Magician of the Year), is among the talent that has already been booked for the series, according to Breslin.

Between six and eight buskers will entertain each week at the two business sites with a total of between 60 and 70 performers scheduled over the 10-week season.

The chamber is working with local businesses that may want to adjust their hours or do something else to capture the public’s attention during the Wednesday events.

“Basalt is always active on Sundays with the Sunday Market,” said Kris Mattera, executive director of the Basalt Chamber of Commerce. “This is an opportunity for businesses to do something special” during these times.

Sidewalk sales and extended hours are examples of what businesses could do during the Wednesday events, she suggested.

“We know this is a date that’s going to activate all of Basalt. This would be a great time to take advantage of that.”

“Wednesday Night Live” evolved over the past few months as the three entities tossed around multiple concepts for ways to present weekly arts and entertainment amid the COVID-19 pandemic, before agreeing on this one.

“The idea is to disperse fun” while adhering to public health orders, Mattera said.

To that end, she said a map with bike routes one can ride between Willits and downtown Basalt may be published to complement the series.

“You could see the performances from your own set of wheels,” Mattera said.

“Wednesday Night Live’s” funding was provided by a repurposing of the town’s special event monies. Entertainment for the 10 nights will run $35,000 plus a few thousand dollars more for marketing, said Town Manager Ryan Mahoney.

He told the town council on June 9 that Basalt Bucks — the $20 voucher for all local residents that’s set to be mailed out this week— would be great to use during the Wednesday night series. Mahoney added that additional $20 Basalt Bucks — beyond those mailed to residents — will be handed out during “Wednesday Night Live.”

“We hope this will help get the arts community revived,” Mahoney said. “We’re excited to try it out.”

Madeleine Osberger is a Contributing Editor for Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at madski@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @Madski99