SHIRLEY -- Starting Saturday at noon on the Common, the Ayer Shirley Middle School band and chorus will entertain. The band has grown in size and talent since school regionalization a few years ago.

The new schedule has allowed for students to take instrument lessons during the school day, at no charge, except for instrument rental. This has made a huge difference in the program and has provided many well trained students to go on and later join the Ayer Shirley High School band.

At 12:45 p.m., 360 Gymnastics will show what they can do. This group has only been in Shirley a few years, but their students are already having fun and their teams are already winning competitions.

At 1:15 p.m., Shirleyite John Hanson will perform with some of his teen and pre-teen music students. These kids are from Shirley and neighboring towns and did a great job with their rock and roll selections last year.

At 2 p.m., the Shirley Playboard will bring out its cow and will eventually announce the Bingo winner according to where the first two cow chips land. Bingo tickets are already on sale from Playboard members and will continue to be sold on the day of the Hoe Down.

Maria's School of Dance, under the direction of Maria D'Avolio Morell, has been teaching classical ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop and creative movement to children, teens and adults for 28 years. Some of their students will take the center stage from 2-2:30 p.m.

Emilie Faucher grew up and went to school in Shirley, and in recent years, has returned to town and been part of the group promoting the preservation of the Meetinghouse and the Center Town Hall. She has had several successful concerts around the Common and has even entertained at the Bull Run as part of a Meetinghouse fundraiser. From country and folk to blues and jazz, Emilie and her friends will impress listeners from 2:30-3:30 p.m.

The Crazy Hat Parade will be up next with an all-amateur group of young hat decorators who march around the Common and compete for the tallest, widest, funniest and cutest hats. There are no age limits or residence limits to this contest.

From 3:45-4:15 p.m., Blinkee, the Clown, will entertain with her magic tricks followed by half an hour of making balloon creations for the children. Blinkee has entertained at Shirley restaurants but this will be her first time outdoors on the Common.

To finish off the day's entertainment, just as the barbecued chicken is coming off the grill, at 4:15 p.m., Back to the Garden will be back on the Common in Shirley Center. They performed at the Hoe Down last year and also at some of the Shirley Center Farmer's Markets. They are a group of local musicians showcasing songs from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and today. Organizer Bob Wright, of Main Street Cafe in Groton, enjoys being DJ at Shirley Center Town Hall parties, enjoys making music,, and enjoys having fun in Shirley.

Great thanks go out to all the local businesses and individuals who are helping to sponsor these great entertainers at this year's Hoe Down.

Note that if the weather is bad, the Hoe Down will be postponed until Sunday, from noon to dusk, and there may be changes in the entertainment line up.

For information, go to www.shirleyhoedown.net or look for us on Facebook.