Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bluegrass in Wilkes draws a crowd - Curly Seckler

Top performers in bluegrass and country music filled the stage Saturday for the third annual Festival on the Lake at W. Kerr Scott's Forest Edge Community Amphitheatre.
The festival was a benefit for Rendezvous Mountain State Forest Educational Park, and was sponsored by Friends of Rendezvous Mountain.
Some 300 to 400 people, including folks from all over North Carolina and surrounding states, were on hand throughout the day, according to Jennifer Michael, a member of Friends of Rendezvous and one of the main organizers. Many stayed in local motels and hotels, while others brought campers and used the reservoir's facilities.
Ms. Michael said she was pleased with the festival, that attendance was up from last year. She noted that there were more venders, particularly food venders, to serve festival-goers.
Though a forecast of rain probably deterred some folks from coming, advanced ticket sales were strong, she said.
The last two acts of the evening, Big Country Bluegrass Band and bluegrass legend Curley Seckler, brought out the largest crowd, Ms. Michael said. Big Country performed at 7:45 and Seckler hit the stage at 8:30, performing with Big Country.
Seckler, a native of China Grove who now lives near Nashville, Tenn., sang tenor and played mandolin as one of the Foggy Mountain Boys with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs between 1949 and 1962. The 89-year-old Seckler participated in recording some of the group's classic material, including "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," "Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms" and "Salty Dog Blues."
Seckler is a member of the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame.
Big Country's members hail from Virginia and North Carolina. The band, which headlined the festival last year, has performed on the Grand Ole Opry and other major venues. Ms. Michael noted that a large contingent of bluegrass enthusiasts from Virginia filled seats at the festival, drawn there by Big Country.
Music for the festival began at noon and continued through the afternoon and into the night. Emcee for the stage was Harrold Mitchell and the sound was handled by Tim Varner.
Among others performing were Elkville String Band, a local group; Roy McMillan and the High Country Boys, Heather Berry and Tony Mabe and R.G. Absher and Extra Measure, another local band.
R.G. Absher and Extra Measure opened the festival for the second year in a row. All groups, including Seckler and Big Country, performed both in the afternoon and at night.
A tribute to Gray Parsons was held at 4:50 p.m. Parsons was a volunteer fireman who died of a heart attack as he answered a fire call in February. He was a big bluegrass fan and a supporter of the Friends of Rendezvous, Ms. Michael said.
The tribute, which included a gospel song, honored him for his support, she said. Because Parsons was a member of the state forest service, other members of the forest service were present Saturday for the tribute.
Millers Creek and Champion firemen directed parking and provided assistance throughout the festival, she noted.
All funds from the concert are being used for Rendezvous Mountain State Park and the work of the Friends of Rendezvous Mountain for the park, Ms. Michael said. Though accounting hasn't been completed and some donations are still coming in, it appears that some $2,000 to $3,000 was raised, with tickets at $15 each.
The money will be used to improve Rendezvous, which is a forest park providing education. Ms. Michael commented that Rendezvous is a major community asset, located in one of Wilkes County's most scenic areas.

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