Tucked in the northeast corner of Oswego, not far from Route 30, are more than 300 acres of green pastures, white fences, horses and music.
Arranmore Farm and Polo Club was founded by Chicago-area realtor John Greene in 1999 to serve as a private, family-owned and -operated farm and polo space for the Greene family, many of whom were avid polo players.
“It was the late ‘90s, and a lot of the polo was played in Oak Brook, and then people started fanning out and playing on their own private fields,” President Shannon Greene-Robb said.
As development continued in the Oak Brook area, Greene moved to the 300-acre farm on Rance Road in Oswego Township, which rapidly expanded in function, with the 2006 founding of Arranmore Arts, Greene-Robb’s nonprofit organization.
Arranmore Arts, according to the group’s website, believes that “unique experiences awaken the creative spirit, inspire community and make life worth living.” The group accomplishes this through activities and programs for area children, from a STE(A)M (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) program, and *Jam workshops.
The Arranmore Arts program expanded into the Oswego community in 2011, with the creation of the Cabernet Cabaret (CabCab) concert series.
“We did that really just as a way for people to know who we were as a nonprofit,” Greene-Robb said. The CabCab concerts, held during the summer and early fall, promote community engagement and interaction through performances from local artists and groups, as listeners gather on the acreage in front of the stage.
“We just did one concert, we actually had friends come and perform, and we did it, and we got emails and phone calls saying ‘Do it again, do it again, do it again.’”
The switch to for-profit
About three years ago, Greene-Robb said, the program switched to a for-profit style, due to the high demand for using the property for weddings, meetings and other social events.
“People don’t know it’s here, I think for some reason this is a magical space, and you come here and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve been transported somewhere else’,” she said. “People were like, ‘Well, I’m on a polo field, I want to see polo,’ and I thought why don’t we do that? That’s when the weddings came about, and then we got the liquor license, and that’s when it really evolved, so we knew that we kind of had to switch it over from the nonprofit to the for-profit.”
“Part of the mission for my nonprofit was really to bring arts and culture out to the western suburbs,” she said. “When we kind of realized that we could do that on a larger scale and make a lot of people happy. ... It’s a beautiful piece of property, and we want to share it.
“CabCab has grown to where little kids are dancing with their grandmas like nobody’s business, and that makes my heart happy, and I think other people’s too. ... We didn’t intend on this six or seven years later, but here we are, and people like it, so we just keep doing it.”
Since its inception, CabCab has grown into a summer hotspot in Oswego, with hundreds of visitors turning out for each concert, some with simple setups, and some with more elaborate settings featuring candelabras and decorative table linens. The nature of the performances, the expansive space, and the decorations that audience members bring for their dining areas have led many to compare Arranmore to Ravinia, the upscale outdoor concert venue in Gurnee, though Greene-Robb sees the comments a different way.
“To me, it’s an example, because people don’t get it, but if you say ‘It’s like Ravinia,’ people say ‘Oh!’,” she said. “For a lot of stuff we do, it is a comparison, there’s music, there’s events, but I think we are very different than Ravinia.”
Big names performing this weekend
Though Arranmore has grown in name and reputation in Oswego and the western suburbs, a series of concerts set for this weekend are expected to be by far the biggest draw for visitors so far, Greene-Robb said.
On Friday, Phil Wickham, along with CCC Worship, will take the stage to raise money to directly support local and global mission outreach through Go Team scholarship funding. On Sunday, the NFL Alumni of Chicago will host its inaugural benefit concert featuring Echosmith and The Score to benefit several Chicago-area charities. Saturday, the Goo-Goo Dolls, featuring Gavin DeGraw, will appear to support local charity Cal’s Angels, raising money to support research into childhood cancer.
In a career that now spans more than three decades, the Goo-Goo Dolls have sold more than 12 million albums worldwide and have had numerous top 10 hits on charts throughout the world. They are likely the most commercially successful act to play a venue in Kendall County.
The three-day concert series came about as part of Greene-Robb and the Arranmore leadership’s efforts to incorporate a musical element into polo, when she was approached by the concert organizer about hosting this weekend’s concerts, all of which will benefit local charities.
“To me, that was in complete alignment with what Arranmore wants to do,” she said. “Since I started here, I always wanted to work with different charities, foundations and nonprofits, to give them a space that they could use for their own benefit.”
“It’s exciting, I’m actually not to the artist point, I think I’m really excited with the production manager. ... Everyone has been really respectful of the property, and that’s always been number one,” Greene-Robb said. “I’m really excited...I hope that they [the artists] will really enjoy it as well, because it’s different. To me, it’s a different experience; it’s better than playing at a stadium. It’s a different thing, it’s a different gig.”
“It’s been really cool to watch that evolve and see the plans,” she said, praising the village administrators for their assistance and cooperation. “Oswego has been really awesome; police, fire, everyone at the village, they’ve been so incredible.”
Looking to the future, Greene-Robb said, that the concerts could mean different things.
“I think it means a lot of things; a lot of it is let’s see how it goes,” she said. “What’s it going to do to the land, how do we react to it, how does it go? If all things go wonderful, I would like to see two weekends next year, and it’s the Arranmore Gives Back series.”
Though Greene-Robb said that large concerts would not be a regular occurrence, all large concerts hosted at Arranmore in the future would be based with charities or nonprofits, but precautions would need to be taken to maintain the integrity of the farm.
“That’s something special and beautiful in itself,” she said.
“Ever since we started CabCab, several people have coined it ‘a gift to the community,’” she said. “It’s not about [money], it’s about loving watching kids run; they’re dancing and hanging out. ... There’s a freedom in this, there’s a beauty in that that’s not going to happen in the large concerts.”