Local barbecue restaurant hosts monthly bluegrass music jamboree
by Gregg MacDonald, Staff Writer
Sometimes the stars align just right, allowing for great things to happen.
That’s how Becky McDonough, CEO of the Hopewell-Prince George Chamber of Commerce, explains the creation of the now-annual Hopewell, Va., Bluegrass Jamboree concert series.
Currently in its third season, the scheduled concerts, and impromptu after-show jam sessions, have brought bluegrass music back to the community and vice versa.
Concerts are held in the outdoor courtyard of Saucy’s BBQ near the intersection of West Randolph Road and East City Point Road, where once a month, melodic mandolins and meaty ribs come together to create memorable evenings.
FOR FAMILIES AND KIDS
“It all started with Julie Childrey,” says McDonough. “She walked into my office with a passion for bluegrass music and a desire for someplace local to hear it.”
Childrey, a Prince George Electric Cooperative member and bluegrass music fan, says the idea came to her before the onset of the recent pandemic, but that she couldn’t find a local venue where bands could play until it became necessary for establishments to take music and crowds outside for safety.
“I’ve been listening to country, gospel and bluegrass my whole life,” she says. “There used to be a few venues way outside of town where you could go hear bluegrass music, but they all shut down during COVID.
“So, I thought, ‘Why not find someplace local where musicians can play outside, right here in Hopewell?’ I didn’t want it to be a nightclub scene. I wanted it to be somewhere that families could attend and little kids could dance. And it had to be free to the public.”
ADDING THE SAUCE
About that same time, McDonough says local Hopewell restauranteur and fellow music lover Tom McCormack was hoping to find some way to draw crowds to his Hopewell BBQ joint, Saucy’s. McDonough put
the two together.
“It was a perfect match,” McCormack says. “We had a few solo singer-songwriters performing in here before the pandemic, and we experimented with different types of music like indie, blues and folk, but nothing really seemed to draw crowds. I’ve always been hip to trying alternative ways of doing things, so I thought, ‘Why not try this idea of bluegrass bands performing outside?’”
With a little help in the form of a grant from Richmond-based CultureWorks, the Hopewell Bluegrass Jamboree was born in October 2020.
Now in its third season and beginning in the spring, the event regularly attracts an average of 85-90 attendees per monthly performance.
For fellow PGEC member Ryan Holder, 29, of bluegrass band Josh Grigsby and County Line, the jamboree has provided an opportunity for the part-time musician to locally showcase his skills on upright bass, and perhaps more importantly, it has given him a new sense of identity.
“By day I work at the West Rock Paper Mill in West Point,” he says. “But in my spare time, I’m playing with the band, and it’s great to have a venue so close to home so friends and family can attend and see me play.”
For more information about the Hopewell Bluegrass Jamboree, go to facebook.com/bluegrassjamboree.