Derry music venue to offer drive-in option

File photo. Scott Hayward, owner of the Tupelo Music Hall, stands in the new Derry music space on A in 2017. With the coronavirus challenges facing performance venues like the Tupelo, Hayward has put unique plans in place to continue offering music to his patrons in the area.

DERRY — Presenting live music is what the Tupelo Music Hall is all about.

And now the Derry venue will offer a way for that music to continue safely without having to venture far from your car.

The Tupelo Music Hall will be changing its model to a drive-in style operation, offering music lovers an opportunity to purchase tickets and drive to the venue on A Street, park within safe distance of others and enjoy a night of live, outdoor music.

When the Tupelo had to close its doors this past March due to the coronavirus, commonly known as COVID-19, owner Scott Hayward spoke out online about the challenges and heartache he had to deal with, canceling shows, and wondering if any of those shows would be rescheduled.

Many artists planned for the Tupelo stage had canceled their complete tours. Since then, many artists have rescheduled with Tupelo dates in the months ahead filling in.

Once the Tupelo closed, Hayward and his wife Julie took on other ventures to support the community and the business including a Family Meals and Supplies Program, that offered freshly made meals and other staples like paper products to those in need, and also for patrons who wanted to continue to support the music venue.

As the weather gets warmer, bringing a drive-in option to the music hall seemed like another good idea.

“We need music and movies but we also need to be smart and safe,” Hayward said in an email statement. “The state of New Hampshire has new guidelines to allow drive-in theaters to operate beginning May 11 (with restrictions). These guidelines are a smart way to get people out of their houses while maintaining distance between folks.”

To morph the Tupelo into a drive-in setting, Hayward said patrons would buy tickets in advance, one ticket per car. People would then drive into the venue location, show an email confirmation and then would be guided to a parking spot safely distanced from others.

People can remain in their cars and listen to the concert via Derry FM radio station or get out and sit in a chair on the driver’s side, still maintaining safe distance.

“You don’t leave the spot. There’s no walking around. Your spot is your home. Stay home,” Hayward said. “You essentially have your car and the open spot next to it.”

Featured musicians for that night would be on a “stage,” Hayward said, at the covered front entrance to the Tupelo hall.

“The band or artist is on a riser and we have a modest sound system so you can hear outside if you choose to hang out in your lawn chair,” he said. “In the event it rains, we have a rain date.”

Food would also be available and could be ordered and paid for via phone and brought safely to cars by staff wearing masks and gloves.

Hayward said the town has permitted him a date of May 16 for the inaugural drive-in show. Hayward said the first show would be an acoustic style performance with more to come during the summer months.

“Shows will be very limited because we will have to leave so many spaces open,” he said. “I think we will be able to accommodate about 75 cars per show but, once we get going, we can do multiple shows in a day.”

Hayward said people are anxious to start getting out of the house. He also plans possible family movie night options in his new drive-in setting.

Town officials say they are happy with Hayward’s new prospect of continuing the music when current times are challenging.

“We love the idea that folks will have a chance to get out of the house and do something purely for fun,” said Derry’s Economic Development Director Beverly Donovan. “It’s been a difficult time and people are looking for ways to safely get back to doing the things they love, and music and movies are at the top of the list for a lot of people.”

Donovan said the town staff is happy to see Hayward’s idea moving forward.

“In a lot of ways, thinking back to old-fashioned drive-in theaters and restaurants, this is a very simple idea,” Donovan said “The way that it’s delivered in these times is new and exciting for a lot of folks. It’s great to be able to help with Scott and Julie Hayward’s plan to pivot and keep their businesses up and running, providing great entertainment at Tupelo.”

For information on the Tupelo, its drive-in plans and shows currently being rescheduled for later this year, visit the music hall at tupelomusichall.com or call 603-437-5100.

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