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Burnt Church Bluegrass Festival on Saturday brings community together

Wayne Jerrolds and Savannah Grass

Enjoy the sounds of fiddles, banjos and other string instruments at Burnt Church’s annual Bluegrass Festival this weekend.
The community music fest starts at noon Saturday, Sept. 9, at the Burnt Church Community Center, 110 School Drive, seven miles southeast from downtown Savannah.
Nine bluegrass bands will perform and the festival kicks off with an open mic session from 12-1 p.m.
“We look forward to people getting on stage and showing us their talent,” Burnt Church Community Center Treasurer Jane Jerrolds urged.
Nine bands are scheduled to perform starting at 1 p.m., including “The Lisa Lambert Band,” “Hatchie Bottom Boys,” and the “Courthouse Pickers.”
Event organizer Freeda Ashe however, said the festival is more than just music.
“It is important for us to host the festival because it helps with our goal of trying to keep the community alive,” she said.
Bluegrass legend and Burnt Church native Wayne Jerrolds is performing at the festival, and said music has brought the community together for as long as he can remember.
“Since I was a child you could always hear people picking a guitar or playing other instruments on their porches. Sometimes people would gather and watch them play or just sit in on their porches and enjoy the sounds coming across the hollers.
“The community has also always hosted concerts, dances and so forth, with the musical stylings of the times such as swing, and then country music. I believe we started hosting bluegrass festivals in the 70s at Neill’s Grocery and now at the community center.”
He added, “You know it’s hard to accurately explain bluegrass as a music genre, but it has always been popular in our community and I think while there are remnants of country, blues and more, an important distinction would be that there are no electric instruments, only acoustic.”
The festival is also the largest fundraiser for the community center, which is located at the former Whites Elementary School site.
“We encourage everyone to come out to the beautiful country setting to enjoy bluegrass music, good food, fun and friendly folks, all while supporting a worthy cause,” Jerrolds invited.
Whites Elementary operated from 1930 until Hardin County Schools closed it in 2010.
“When the school ceased operations many in the community were upset. Schools act as an important resource for keeping communities together. We didn’t want to lose that, so the county donated the complex for us to have a community center. Fortunately we have volunteers who understand the importance of keeping the school building, as it’s an important part of our history and can also serve as a gathering place for citizens,” Ashe explained.
With the mindset of keeping the community connected with their neighbors, while also preserving the area’s past, center volunteers have been collecting photos and other keepsakes of veterans who are from Burnt Church or have ties to the area.
“We have already started displaying the photos and some other things we have collected, and we are hoping attendees of the bluegrass festival will walk through and learn about all of the people in their community who have served for their freedom, including those who gave their lives for our nation, for our state, for this community,” Ashe noted.
She said she hopes more people will share their family’s military service with the community after viewing the information they already have, which dates back to the Civil War.
“Our goal is to open a veterans museum at the center. We want people to know the love of those who have served had for their community and their nation, and we are at the point where that needs to be taught.
“Again, we want to keep the memories of this community and its people alive. Community is why we have volunteers working to keep Whites School from being destroyed, and why we want to honor our veterans.
“We also need to keep our traditions such as the bluegrass festival, because all of these things keep our residents together,” said Ashe.
Food will be available for sale during the festival including hot dogs, hamburgers, beans, sandwiches and desserts, with proceeds also benefiting the center.
Jerrolds encourages people to bring their lawn chairs and plan to stay and have a good time.
“Come early and stay late for the family friendly celebration,” said Jerrolds.
Ashe added, “We appreciate all our sponsors and visitors. Special thanks to our volunteers and supporters who help keep the community center open.”
A small admission fee is charged for those 12 and older.
For more information about the bluegrass festival, how to donate to the center or how to submit veterans photos, call 731-458-7888 or 731-925-3683.

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