See the 2 big names booked for new Modesto amphitheater as it readies full 2019 season

An Aug. 21, 2018, look at the new amphitheater at the Fruit Yard with Joe Traina, Melissa Traina, Don Bean and Willie Traina pictured. A new 2019 season is in the works.
An Aug. 21, 2018, look at the new amphitheater at the Fruit Yard with Joe Traina, Melissa Traina, Don Bean and Willie Traina pictured. A new 2019 season is in the works. jlee@modbee.com

After opening last summer, the new amphitheater at The Fruit Yard in Modesto is waking up from winter with news on two big acts booked for this year, ticket sales dates and even a new name.

Now the Basi Insurance Nationwide Amphitheatre at The Fruit Yard, the outdoor venue — competed just in time for its fledgling show in August featuring singer Amy Grant — has booked two new artists for its first full season of entertainment. They’re the first of several to be announced.

Country superstar Willie Nelson & Family will play the amphitheater on May 8 with classic pop icon Frankie Valli and his group The Four Seasons playing on June 14. Tickets go on sale for both shows on Friday, Feb. 22.

Singer Willie Nelson talks politics, inspiration, and the honor of winning the 2015 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular song before Gershwin Prize Tribute Concert in Washington, DC.

The two are the first of more to come, according to Billy Cohen at the Richter Group, which books shows for the venue. He said the community can expect a number of shows for the coming season, from spring through fall. “There are, right now, several shows that are all but confirmed.”

Joe Traina, owner of the venue and the rest of the Fruit Yard complex, hopes to see eight to 10 shows for the season, with at least one comedy act and possibly a play as part of the mix. In addition, students from the Juline School of Dance of Modesto will hold a performance during the year, part of a nonprofit, community program for the venue. “I foresee doing a couple of nonprofit events a year,” Traina said.

But first come the season’s booked artists. One of country music’s famous “outlaw” musicians, Nelson’s concert at the amphitheater will include his musical family. Superstar Nelson has a history of sell-out shows, Cohen said.

The Frankie Valli concert is timed with the annual Graffiti Summer celebration that takes over the entire month of June in Modesto, one that The Fruit Yard has been a part of annually with a classic car show. Valli is known for hits from the era celebrated during Graffiti Summer, the 1950s and ’60s.

“That’s exactly why we did it (booked Valli),” Traina said. “It’s the same weekend as our car show.”

Rurally located adjacent to orchards, a longstanding restaurant and a market just west of Waterford, the amphitheater has lawn seating as well as reserved seating to accommodate about 3,500.

Grant was a hit last year, according to Traina, that helped guide the brand new venue through what he called a “fairly soft opening.” The concert went smoothly with a “wonderful lady” performing, he said.

While adding a sponsorship to its name is “pretty typical in the industry,” Traina said, it’s also personal for Randy Basi, president and CEO of Basi Insurance Services, Inc., based in Oakdale and affiliated with Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.

Basi’s father once owned the property, along with several other surrounding acres, where The Fruit Yard now sits. Basi moved to the region from England when he was 10 years old and said he and and his siblings “were kind of raised out there, so it’s very sentimental to me.”

Traina, also a client, was someone Basi grew up with. “He (Traina) just loved my dad and my dad loved him,” Basi said. “I thought if I could (sponsor the amphitheater), I could do that in my dad’s memory.”

Public ticket sales for Nelson and Valli begin at 10 a.m. on Friday through Ticketmaster. Find links to ticket sales at the venue’s website, www.thefruityardevents.com.

Pat Clark covers entertainment and other stories for The Modesto Bee. She attended California State University, Stanislaus, and grew up in Modesto.