Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
One of my favorite things about Carter County, and especially Olive Hill, is how dedicated the people are to supporting music and musicians and preserving musical traditions. Even in the depths of the pandemic, the Olive Hill Center for Arts & Education continued to organize safe, outdoor musical events – like their Christmas caroling – and socially distanced performances like last year’s On with the show!
Live from the Trail Town Stage, which shares the same venue, is another example of how willing local folks are to supporting live music. Add to that the Shriner’s Bluegrass Show, Rattlesnake Ridge, Rudy Fest, Cole’s Bluegrass Barn, the live shows at the Grayson Gallery & Art Center, and other events and, in a typical year, there is no shortage of opportunities to see live music.
So, it’s no surprise that when you look back at newspaper clippings from the last century, musical entertainment was an important part of the social scene. What’s interesting though is how big a role the school building at the time played in hosting those entertainment events and serving as a community center, just as the old Olive Hill High School venue still does today.
In February of 1921 the Carter County Herald commended the elementary school students on their musical and dramatic programs for the winter evening (Fine Entertainment) and then, two days later, a new community orchestra performed in the same space (Choir and Orchestra).
“Olive Hill has some real musicians and (the organizers) say they are going to get out of them some of what they really possess, as it will not only be uplifting to them, but will help make our city more inviting and better entertaining to folks when they come into it,” the paper wrote.
It wasn’t just a winter fancy either. Even as spring approached, another project was underway with the creation of the new “Olive Hill Cornet Band” (Band Organized). Even though those projects waxed and waned over the ensuing decades, as all such projects inevitably do, they point to an unbroken chain of musical legacy down over the last century plus. A chain that Trail Town Stage, Christmas on the Hill, and On With the Show! are just the latest links of.
Editor’s Note: This is the 38th in a series of articles drawn from historical newspaper clippings in the collection of the late Jack Fultz.