The 13th — and final — “A Really Big Shoe” fundraiser features an encore performance by pioneering folk singers The Brothers Four.
The Brothers (none are related) have been entertaining audiences since 1957 and continue to tour internationally, drawing large audiences on frequent tours to Japan.
“A Really Big Shoe” also has quite a history, having raised more than $300,000 for Thurston County school districts’ funds to help homeless students and for Community Youth Services, a nonprofit that offers services and support for at-risk and homeless youth.
“Shoe” began in 2007 as a showcase for Entertainment Explosion, a group of entertainers ages 50 and up. Over the years, the troupe has gotten smaller and its members older, and doing a full-length show became too much for those who remained.
“I’m 69 — almost 70, and I am one of the younger members,” producer Scott Schoengarth told the Olympian. “Everyone is 13 years older. We rarely get new members.”
But Schoengarth and his fellow entertainers wanted to keep helping students who needed help. The money they’ve raised — a total that will surpass $330,000 after Sunday’s show — has paid for clothes, shoes, shelter, food, school supplies and more.
That’s where the Brothers came in. The group, which helped to found the folk rock movement, fit the benefit into its busy schedule of touring, mostly in the United States and Asia.
In May, the group will spend a month in Japan, playing 20 shows.
“The Brothers Four was one of the first non-Asian groups to go to Japan,” said Mike McCoy of Snoqualmie, who has performed with the group since the late ’60s and has toured with the group to Japan six or seven times since he became a full-time member in 2004.
“A lot of people learned English listening to Brothers Four music back in the ’60s,” he told the Olympian. “At our concerts here, people are seniors, but when we go to Japan, three generations of families will come to our shows — the grandkids and mom and dad and the grandparents. They know our music. They’ll sing along in English. It’s like a phenomenon over there.”
Along with founding member and leader Bob Flick, the group’s current lineup also includes Mark Pearson, who joined in 1969 for a few years and returned in 1985, and Karl Olsen, a member since 2008.
The singers and dancers of Entertainment Explosion are still involved in the benefit and will perform in the lobby before and after the main event and during the intermission.
The two groups — the Olympia one made up of amateurs who love to perform, and the mostly Washington-based band of professional musicians — are a noticeably good fit, and not just because both are composed of folks who qualify for AARP membership.
There’s also a shared interest in helping young people who lack financial resources.
McCoy builds handmade guitars and gives them to youths who can’t afford to buy instruments through his nonprofit, Tokol Creek Guitars (tokulcreekguitars.com).
He started building and giving away guitars in 2015. He’s given away 16 or 17 to date, including four in Thurston County, where Schoengarth has been working to connect him with young musicians.
“He contacted school districts and told them about my nonprofit, and they’d find students who met the criteria,” McCoy said. “I originally wasn’t targeting homeless kids at all, but this is a population that’s very deserving.
“It’s a perfect fit with what I’m doing,” he added. “It’s a blessing that I ran into Scott.”
A Really Big Shoe
What: Internationally known folk icons The Brothers Four return to Olympia for Entertainment Explosion’s 13th — and final — fundraiser for homeless and low-income youths.
When: 2 p.m. Sunday, March 31, with lobby entertainment beginning at 12:30
Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia
More information: 360-753-8586, washingtoncenter.org
Listen: Hear The Brothers Four sing their quintessential hit “Greenfields” — first released in 1960.