• Donna Meade Brings Back Old Dominion Barn Dance to Hopewell, Virginia

    Donna Meade, a former Mercury-Polygram recording artist and the widow of country music singer Jimmy Dean, is recreating the Old Dominion Barn Dance in Hopewell, VA.

    “I believe that good, wholesome, traditional country music will never go away,” said Meade. “The Barn Dance is a beloved and legendary show that rivaled the Grand Ole Opry in its heyday, and an important part of Virginia's history and culture. As long as I am able I hope to keep it going, and then pass the torch along to the next generation of performers.”

    The Old Dominion Barn Dance is in its second year at the restored art-deco Beacon Theatre in Hopewell, where it gives five performances a year. On May 19, the group gave a happy heart-warming performance for fans, who came out despite the heavy rain that had been pounding the east coast. Appearing along with the local cast was Nashville performer Johnny Rodriguez.

    This revived version of the Old Dominion Barn Dance is following the original variety show format with a series of performers, alternating stalwart old-timers with up-and-coming new talents whom Meade is promoting. There was also a short comedy sketch with Lee Blasingame and some chit-chat, including the recognition of steel guitarist and musical director Ryland Tinnell's birthday.

    After a short video introduction to the history of the Old Dominion Barn Dance, local TV veteran Gene Cox took the stage as host and emcee. He introduced Meade, who appeared wearing a barn-red sequined gown. She greeted the audience like a group of old friends: “Howdy, we’ve got us a barn and we’ve got us some dancers….” Her remarks segued into the opening act: the Old Dominion Barn Dance Cloggers, six young performers who tapped their toes, whirled and twirled with petticoats flying for two quick numbers.

    Veteran vocalist Danny Menzies twanged his rhythm guitar and sang an old favorite, “Among My Souvenirs,” made famous by Connie Francis in 1959. Next came another veteran, Lynne Carnes, who gave a strong rendition of “Pride,” a classic country ballad from 1980 by Ray Price. Mike Toney, guitarist and singer, gave a rendition of the Travis Tritt song “T-R-O-U-B-L-E,” combining classic country with a rock-and-roll beat.

    The first of the younger performers was Christy Thompson, who joined the Barn Dance this year. With a powerhouse voice that rose to the rafters, she sang a rendition of Martina McBride's “A Broken Wing."

    Daniel Menzies, the youngest member of the cast and son of Danny Menzies, sang Kenny Roger’s “The Gambler” with the audience joining in on the chorus. Sam McCoig sang and yodeled to the tune of "In the Jailhouse Now” and “You Never Even Called Me by My Name.”

    Featured among the young artists was rising national star Tony Jackson, who has several Top 40 hits to his credit. Jackson sang four songs, including his new release, “Ain’t No App for That,” which Meade helped to write.

    At the end of the show Meade introduced a special guest, 95-year-old Rose Lee Maphis, one of the original stars of the Old Dominion Barn Dance. She and Meade sang the closing song, "You Are My Sunshine,” honoring Mary Arlene Higdon, known as "Sunshine Sue," who created and hosted the original Old Dominion Barn Dance.

    About the Old Dominion Barn Dance: 
    Virginia’s version of the Grand Ole Opry, the Old Dominion Barn Dance was originally produced at the Lyric Theater in Richmond, Virginia, from 1946 to 1957. The two-hour country music show was performed before a live audience and broadcast on WRVA radio, reaching 38 states and parts of Canada. Donna Meade, who had her eye on the Barn Dance for several years, bought the trademark in 2014, started producing shows at the Henrico Theater in 2015 and moved the show to Hopewell, VA, in 2017.

    Country music fans can see performances of the Old Dominion Barn Dance at Hopewell’s Beacon Theatre August 18, 2018, with special guest Crystal Gayle; November 10 with Sammy Kershaw and December 9 with Bill Anderson. The August and November shows feature both a matinee and an evening performance.

    To complement your visit to an Old Dominion Barn Dance show, you may wish to visit nearby Weston Plantation, shop in All Manor of Things Boutique at the plantation, visit General Grant’s cabin at City Point and sample the local cuisine at the new Saucy’s Barbecue in downtown Hopewell, VA, for sliders, tacos, spicy cue balls and a selection of craft beers.

    For more details on musical performances and entertainment in Hopewell and Prince George, VA, call a tourism advisor at the Hopewell, VA tourism office: 1-800-863-8687. The Hopewell and Prince George Virginia Visitor Welcome Center is located at 4100 Oakland Boulevard in Hopewell, at exit 9A on I-295 south of Richmond.