Keith Johnson — A Man Who Personifies Localism

Keith Johnson with his singing partner of many years, Judy Matzen.
Keith Johnson with his singing partner of many years, Judy Matzen.

Keith Johnson isn’t much for attention. A key driver of the Woodstock Farmer’s Market for the past twenty-plus years, he simply wants to connect local food producers with satisfied customers.

RealWoodstock

Keith Johnson isn’t much for attention,” says the author of this post on RealWoodstock. True words. His focus is always on others. He tirelessly helps the organizations he supports to thrive, builds community, and fosters creativity and good will. And he is very effective at what he does.

Still, we can’t help but notice, feel proud, and congratulate Keith on the attention he recently received with THREE well-deserved awards.

Woody Award from the Woodstock Folk Festival

The Woodstock Folk Festival presents a “Woody Award” each year to those who have made significant contributions to the music community outside the performance area. This year the Festival honored Keith for his many contributions to the Woodstock music community and beyond.

Woodstock Folk Festival President, Carol Obertubbesing, reflected on Keith’s contributions as Co-founder and Director of Off Square Music, which hosts “concerts and open mics where he champions both seasoned and new performers…whether it’s organizing events, doing sound, speaking out on behalf of the arts in our community, or encouraging both new and seasoned performers, Keith is truly “THE man about town.”

Energizing and organizing a music community in Woodstock

Off Square Music began in 2003 when the Masthouse could no longer host formal concerts. While the Masthouse continued to host a very popular open mic and sing-a-long series, Off Square Music needed other venues to sell tickets and pay performers.

The Masthouse Concert Committee at that time included John Hoyt, David Ashby, and Keith Johnson. The group applied for a federal tax number and the journey began. Judy Matzen soon joined the group, then a few years later Roger Benson was onboard. Judy and Keith wrote the 501-C-3 application, organizing Off Square Music as a not-for-profit corporation in the state of Illinois.

Today Off Square Music brings local and distant musicians together in Woodstock to play music of many genres. Musicians and non-musicians alike come to the Woodstock area to hear, learn about, and enjoy wonderful music and enjoy the ambiance of a unique town, Woodstock, Illinois. Under Keith’s leadership, the organization has grown to provide:

Woodstock City Council Award

The second award Keith received in the summer of 2022 was from the Woodstock City Council for his work with the Woodstock Farmers Market, which included a seat on the City Council.

This Facebook July 20 post announces Keith’s award from the City: “Last night, the Woodstock City Council honored both the Woodstock Farmers Market and Market Manager Keith Johnson with proclamations for incredible achievements and service. The Woodstock Farmers Market celebrates 40 Years as an integral and vibrant part of our community and Council extended congratulations and sincere gratitude for the organization’s contributions to Woodstock. Keith Johnson was . . . recognized as he retires from his role with the Farmers Market. Keith was commended for his leadership, dedication, selfless service and long-lasting impact on our city!” ~ City of Woodstock IL- City Hall (FaceBook-July 20)

As Keith steps back from management…

In 1995, the Woodstock Farmers Market was struggling. Discussions at the time led to establishing an advisory committee to the Chamber and Keith was named the first Market Manager. While building the Market into one of Illinois’ best, he initiated Music at the Market on a regular basis when the Market moved onto the Woodstock Square in 2007. For more history of the Woodstock Farmers Market and Keith’s leadership, visit this link: Woodstock Farmers Market.

As Keith steps back as Market Manager, the Woodstock Farmers Market folks say this: “As many of you know, Keith Johnson is one of the reasons the Woodstock Farmers Market has grown into the award-winning market that it is.  He helped build the market from the ground up, and his passion to see the market thrive has been key. While we hate to see him step down, we understand that it is time for him to take a step back from the intense job of managing a market that continues to grow.  We are excited that he will still remain with the market as a vendor, and we know he will do a great job of training his replacement.”

The Woodstock Farmers Market celebrates 40 years with local products and live music

Saturday, July 30, the Woodstock Farmers Market celebrates 40 years! Our music guest that week is Bad Penny.

Today the summer market has approximately 40 Saturday Vendors and 30 Tuesday vendors. You’ll find organic and homegrown produce and fruits in season. You’ll find delectable baked goods, sweet honey, tender natural beef, pork, poultry, eggs; and delicious cheeses. In addition to all of these wonderful goodies to tempt your taste buds, you’ll find woolen products and fleece; delightful soaps and body products; knife sharpening, and even some crafts. Plus…beautiful perennials; bedding, heirloom, and ornamental plants; hanging baskets, fresh cut flowers.

And you’ll always find Woodstock’s music community is a big part of the Market and so many other area music projects.

Keith received a THIRD award on celebration day

As the Market celebrated 40 years and Keith performed his regular management duties and shared his usual spot at the Market with his wife Nancy, he received yet a third award, the Keys to the City! Here are a couple of pictures. Please join in the congratulations by entering your comments below.

Building a vibrant local community

These three awards point to Keith’s lifetime of unique contributions to “local production and consumption of goods, local control of government, and promotion of local history, local culture and local identity.

Keith is a singer and guitarist himself as well as a farmer, and he was able to bring his own passions together in this way to build local community and help create its distinctive character with an award-winning, distinctive, producers-only farmers market and a vibrant, creative, and well-known music culture.

Keith continues to guide the Off Square Music board and host various open mics. He also continues to show his visionary and forward-thinking nature as he welcomes, encourages and supports new technologies including an online program. And he’s jumping right in to learn it! OSM recently got a new digital soundboard, and Keith is mastering all the ins-and-outs of it, running sound for various events. The soundboard is controlled from an iPad, so if you see Keith walking around the Square on music days with an iPad, you’ll know he’s using his high tech skills!

Join the celebration and congratulate Keith as he steps back from almost 30 years of managing the Woodstock Farmers Market, bringing together consumers and local producers, music and music lovers. Please use the comments section below to create a permanent record of your memories and express your appreciation.

But first, a few more pictures.

Keith Johnson receives an award from the Woodstock City Council with his wife, Nancy, next to him.
Keith Johnson receives an award from the Woodstock City Council with his wife, Nancy, next to him.
Another award-winning occasion.
Another award-winning occasion.
Keith with long-time singing partner, Judy Matzen.
Keith with long-time singing partner, Judy Matzen.
Keith & Nancy Johnson
Keith & Nancy Johnson

3 Comments

  1. Dear Keith and Nancy – thank you so much for your many contributions to the unique and beautiful culture of the Woodstock community. The Farmers Market is not only useful but is an uplifting twice-weekly event. And the music events are also inspirational community happenings. Although not a musician, I was so warmly welcomed “into the Woodstock music family” by you, Keith, at a First Saturday Open Mic after Andy announced at an earlier Stage Left Open Mic that we were getting married. And now I get to see my son welcomed into the same community and develop his music and music technology skills. Your passion for what you do, your skill in working with people, and your management abilities are important. But your kind and caring nature, your optimism and your humor help make the community what it is. My mother always said coming into Woodstock is like coming into Brigadoon. 😉 – Seriously, I treasure the opportunity I have had to come into this wonderful community and get to know you. Congratulations on these well-deserved honors. – Leslie

  2. Well deserved awards for all that you have done for the community! The photos of you and Judy singing together bring back fond memories ❤️

  3. It has been a real honor to know and work with Keith these past years. It’s so rare to come across someone like him, who works so hard for the benefit of others. The kind of selfless service Keith embodies is something I admire greatly and an example I strive to follow.

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