Growing up, country music was not something I heard a lot because my parents weren’t big fans of the genre. I listened to it a little in middle and high school, but even today it’s not my favorite style of music … not to be confused with bluegrass, which I heard a lot growing up and absolutely love.
My dad always said that country was just about failing relationships, drinking and things of that nature, which could be a good read of the music, despite the fact there are many songs about love and happy things as well.
But despite not being a huge country fan, when I found out Willie Nelson was going to be in our news coverage area, especially for sister papers The Pilot, of which I am editor, and The Stokes News, I so wanted to be there to cover the event for the community.
Apparently we had the wrong contact information for getting media passes until two days before the concert. And despite the last minute request, Mason Jar Media out of Asheville, which handled the promotion of the event for Jomeokee Music Park owner Alan Pace, was nice enough to get us in — namely me — to cover the event.
I got to talk to people before the opening band, Big Daddy Love of Sparta, started performing, and many of them are die-hard Willie fans. Some drove more than an hour or two to get to the concert, and paid $85 for the VIP tickets which put them right in front of the stage.
As people started coming through the gates to the park and setting up their lawn chairs and marking their “seats” for the concert, I was surprised just how many people I knew to be from the local area.
The first family I picked out of the crowd to interview was from King, and on the very front row in front of Willie’s microphone was one of my fellow boot campers, Colleen Smith, and her mother, Beverly Jackson, who are from Westfield.
We had friends we knew from Mount Airy who attended and sat just a couple of rows behind us in the audience, and as I scanned the crowd, there were others I knew from Pilot Mountain and Mount Airy in attendance as well.
Of course, with more than 3,000 people estimated at the show, it isn’t that unusual to run into someone you know.
And the types of people there blew my mind. It ranged from parents with their tiny infants, to elementary and middle-school age children. There were the partiers of course, but also the people who you know don’t drink and party and just attended to hear the music of a country legend. Young adults and people up into their 70s and 80s all enjoyed the music of Willie Nelson side-by-side.
For me, it was the experience of a lifetime. I’ve had the chance to shoot pictures close up of Andy Griffith, and I’ve met and interviewed one-on-one Donna Fargo, both arguably famous people.
But to be able to shoot a concert of someone as famous of Willie Nelson also thrilled me. Not only did I get to interview his fans, but for the first three songs of the concert, I got to be at the stage within three feet of Willie Nelson to shoot pictures.
For a journalist from a small community newspaper, a chance like that doesn’t come every day of the week, not even every year.
If you want to see the pictures I took, you can visit mtairynews.com or pilotmountainnews.com and go to the camera in the top left corner of the screen.
Wendy Byerly Wood is the associate editor of The Mount Airy News. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 719-1923.