Just feet from the Virginia line toes were tapping as the region’s musical heritage was on display.
Saturday morning’s thick fog did little to quell the enthusiasm as members of bluegrass bands The Back Porch Band and None of the Above performed, celebrating the first-ever Bluegrass Music display at the I-77 welcome center just inside the North Carolina line.
The event was sponsored and funded by the non-profit North Carolina Bluegrass Association. The association was formed in March, and the event was their first project, according to officials.
Association President Ron Ackerman said Saturday’s event was hopefully the first of many similar dedications across the state.
“We’re hoping to put displays honoring the state’s musical traditions in at least nine welcome centers, but that is going to be dependent on finding funds,” Ackerman said.
The displays are funded through association donations and sponsorships, he added.
With the displays located strategically throughout the state, Ackerman said he hopes to spread the word about the region’s musical heritage.
“We want to honor anything to do with bluegrass and old-time music,” he said. “It’s important to preserve the history of our state and region through music.
The location of Saturday’s inaugural display isn’t an accident per se, rather the result of a fortunate happenstance.
“I was coming back from a bluegrass festival in Kentucky when I stopped in this welcome center,” Ackerman said. “I walked in and noticed there was no information available about bluegrass music.”
He said he asked the clerk on duty about it and was told they receive questions about bluegrass music frequently.
“With that, I decided to start here first,” Ackerman said as he looked around the center. “The staff was very interested and excited, and were very open to the idea.”
After approval from both the state departments of transportation and commerce the display was a reality.
“The displays offer information about our traditional music, and highlights North Carolina artists like Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs and Chester Thompson.”
As fingers picked, toes tapped and travelers alternated dancing and sipping coffee in the cold morning air, Ackerman’s eyes sparkled with the desire to spread the word about the state’s musical history.
“I don’t know which one we’ll do next, but with funds being what they are it may take a little while,” he said quietly. “But we’ll get’em done. I want to put a display in every welcome center in the state.”
With that, members of None of the Above broke out in song, singing “take me back to Carolina.”
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.