First Posted: 10/29/2009
They came from near and far to attend Thursdays highway dedication, but all shared a common bond: an undying love for Donna Fargo and her music.
Fans from such states as Texas, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and others joined a large crowd of locals for a late-morning ceremony in which state officials designated a portion of N.C. 103 as Donna Fargo Highway.
Perhaps the person traveling the farthest distance to attend the event in downtown Mount Airy was Marlene Wetzel of Las Vegas, Nev. She came with her daughter Nancy, a resident of Nashville, Tenn., who is a member of the Donna Fargo Fan Club. Both wore shirts featuring images of the Grammy-winning singer.
Weve known Donna for 35 years, Marlene Wetzel said, explaining that they first met the Surry County native at Magic Mountain, a theme park in Valencia, Calif., when Fargo performed there in the mid-1970s. And their admiration has remained strong throughout the years.
Its because shes so special, Nancy Wetzel said. She is genuine and shes very caring.
Along with Fargos ability to connect with her audience which was in ample display during a captivating speech at Thursdays ceremony both women commended her song repertoire. It includes more than a dozen singles that hit country musics top-10 list in the 1970s.
They have meaning, Marlene Wetzel said, adding that the uplifting tone of such songs as The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA is far removed from the themes reflected in much of todays music.
Fargos songs generally exemplify the good things life has to offer, Nancy Wetzel said.
Other fans from closer to home offered similar comments Thursday.
Shes just a wonderful person, said Cindy Kirby of Holly Springs, who added that her family has known Fargo for many years and she attended the dedication in tribute to the singer.
To me, shes never met a stranger, Kirby said. I love her to death.
The Holly Springs resident also cited Fargos songs and the performing talent behind them. Her voice is different, Kirby said. Shes just so unique.
Amy Sawyers of Mount Airy was one of many relatives of Donna Fargo who journeyed to the downtown area Thursday. She is my cousin, Sawyers said.
Despite Fargos many years in the limelight, including performances at major venues and on national television, shes just a hometown girl, Sawyers said.
Steve Talley, owner of a local frame shop, also was in the crowd. I guess if youre from Mount Airy, you should be, Talley said as he watched Fargo seated on a stage nearby in the city parking lot beside Brannock & Hiatt Furniture.
Talley pointed out that Donna Fargo represents a rare commodity in show business someone who is vastly talented and acclaimed, yet still able to strongly connect with the common man.
She does seem like a real person, Talley said.
I think most people can relate to what she sings, he added of Fargos mega-hits of the 1970s, which were played Thursday as the throng assembled and later dispersed. Theyre timeless I know thats an overused word, but her music is still as appropriate now as it was then.
In remarks during her speech Thursday, Fargos down-to-Earth qualities were evident as she told the audience how she grew up along N.C. 103 as Yvonne Vaughn. Her father Ray was a tobacco farmer, while her mother Ada worked in a Mount Airy textile mill. She attended Slate Mountain Baptist Church.
Echoing the tone of some of her lyrics, Fargo said everyone should count their blessings and find ways to enjoy life regardless of where its path takes them.
Dont let anything steal your joy, she advised the crowd. Happiness is your birthright.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.