WRSI marks 40th year with free music festival in Turners Falls

  • Rubblebucket is the headliner for WRSI’s 40th anniversary party at Unity Park on Sunday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/29/2021 4:55:07 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Morning show host Christopher “Monte” Belmonte says WRSI 93.9 The River has prided itself on providing great local music for its 40-year history, and that’s precisely what the radio station will do to celebrate its anniversary on Sunday.

WRSI — in partnership with the Shea Theater Arts Center, of which Belmonte is president — is holding a free music festival in Unity Park starting at 2:30 p.m. Musical acts include some of the station’s staples, such as Rubblebucket, And The Kids and Winterpills. Food trucks and beer will be available.

“I think the fact that we can do something like this again is a great thing for the community,” Belmonte said.

Founded in 1981 by Ed Skutnik in Greenfield, WRSI (initially called “Radio Station 1,” and later, “Radio Skutnik Inc.”) spent nearly two decades operating on Main Street near what is now Green Fields Market, as described by Skutnik in an interview with Belmonte on WRSI’s website.

Skutnik sold the station in the late 1990s, which later relocated to 100 Main St. in Northampton in 1999. Then, in 2004, WRSI and radio station WHMP were moved together to 15 Hampton Ave. in Northampton.

Belmonte said it’s pride in both the station’s identity and the deep-rooted community bond that helped sculpt the concert lineup. WRSI sought out bands with both national relevance and local ties — The festival features Rubblebucket, And The Kids and Winterpills — when considering who to invite. All three bands have local connections and have performed at the Shea Theater in the past.

“We want (93.9 The River) to sound like how the (Pioneer) Valley sounds at any given time,” Belmonte said. “The goal is really that we have a special relationship with each band. ... It’s really like a family affair.”

Belmonte also stressed the significance of the festival’s Unity Park setting. Located within walking distance of the Shea Theater, he sees the event doubling as a celebration of the theater.

“I don’t think a show like this has happened in Unity Park before,” Belmonte said.

Belmonte described this event as “the hors-d’oeuvres to the entrée of the Green River Festival,” Franklin County’s major annual music festival that will return on Aug. 27 through Aug. 29, at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Greenfield. Overall, he frames the event as a potential catalyst for the growth of Turners Falls.

“As somebody who lives here in Turners Falls,” he said, “I hope that this could be a precursor to what might happen in the future.”

Sunday’s festival schedule is as follows:

■Winterpills — 2:30 p.m.

■And The Kids — 3:30 p.m.

■Rubblebucket — 5 p.m.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.




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