A small group of music lovers is trying to bring traditional music “back to the Ridge.”
The Sandy Ridge Music Association has been bringing gospel and bluegrass to the community the second Saturday of every month for the past couple of years, following in the footsteps of a rich local musical tradition.
“We are right in the middle of several well established music venues so we can attract people from Rockingham, Patrick, Henry and Stokes,” said Carolyn Craig who has been spearheading the effort with fellow committee members Barbara Spencer, Willard Nelson and Lloyd Martin. “It is a great location if people know about it.”
Craig said she started the monthly concerts several years ago because she was looking for a place to sing herself and wanted to reinvigorate the musical tradition started in Sandy Ridge with the classic Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs concerts.
“We started off in the American Legion building, but moved to the Sandy Ridge Community Center because the acoustics are better,” she said. “My group, the Fitzgerald Family, usually starts the shows with 30 minutes of music and then we have two guest groups.”
Last week the event featured None of the Above and Hubert Lawson & The Bluegrass Country Boys. The next performace will feature Chords of Faith and Debbie Bennett playing the Christmas show on Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. A donation of $4 will be accepted at the door.
“Debbie Bennett, who is coming in December, has a number one song in the gospel charts,” Craig noted.
“We get in some really, really good groups each month,” said Craig. “I don’t book anybody that I have not heard of and that I don’t approve of.”
The group already has bands lined up through March with The Shelton Brothers and Robert Tilley & The Hard Times Band playing on Jan. 9, 2016, The Molly Rose Band and Swift Creek playing on Feb. 13, 2016 and Marshall Brothers & High Road and Almost There playing on March 12, 2016.
She said the event has drawn some good crowds in the past, but said organizers are hoping to grow the show in coming months.
“We have people coming from Rockingham County and Greensboro,” she said. “They come from surrounding areas before we can get the people from Sandy Ridge and the local area to come. We are trying to get more local people to come enjoy the shows and are trying to get more local people to get involved with organizing them as well.”
Craig said the group is also looking for local sponsors to help ensure enough funds to continue to book high quality bands.
“If people want to help with sponsorship they can call Barbara at 871-2170,” she said. “If they want to let me know about a band they might want to book they can call me at 341-8707, or if they just want information or want to join our committee they can call either of us.”
The monthly shows are partially supported by the Stokes County Arts Council.
“I want to see it grow and be more successful,” said Arts Council Director Eddy McGee. “We need to get the local community involved. If they do not get involved, it may not continue.
“It is very important to continue the music history in Sandy Ridge,” he added. “They have done that with the school shows, but you really want a presence there more than once a year, you really need it to be year round like the Sandy Ridge Music Association is trying to do. I would love to see more folks from Sandy Ridge and the surrounding area going to support it. The committee is investing their time and money in it and I think it is important for the area.”
McGee said if the shows are successful then they might become a key part in revitalizing the Stokes County Hay Ride Music Trail.
“There is enough going on the county that we need to redevelop a music trail,” he said. “It is tourism related and it is economic development.
“If people are looking for a really good bluegrass show, they are not going to find any better talent than what the Sandy Ridge Music Association is bringing into the community,” he added.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.