New Bluegrass Barn Series Brings Appalachian Music to Frying Pan

Bluegrass music has been a part of the culture at Frying Pan Farm Park for many years. Sunday jam sessions have drawn amateurs and professionals alike together to riff and harmonize on old Appalachian classics. From the cornfield to the chicken coop, the twang of the banjo and the screech of the bow across taut violin strings can be heard when the musicians gather in the Country Store. Now, the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park are building on the farm’s bluegrass foundation with the introduction of the new Bluegrass Barn Series.   

Bluegrass musicians gather in the Country Store at Frying Pan Farm Park for an acoustic jam session.

Featuring the best local and regional bluegrass talent, two-hour performances are being held every other Sunday in the visitor center’s 200-seat auditorium. David Peterson and 1946, a traditional bluegrass band from Nashville, Tenn., performed at the first Bluegrass Barn concert on Sunday, November 4, 2012. Although the audience was small, the band created at least one new fan. Kristen Auerbach, an interpreter at the farm, said, “It was a fantastic show.  I’m not a bluegrass fan, but they won me over.” Auerbach said she plans to attend more concerts in the future.  

David Peterson and 1946 played the first concert in the new Bluegrass Barn Series at Frying Pan Farm Park.

The visitor center, built in the late 19th century as a dairy barn, was converted into a sanctuary for the Chantilly Bible Church in the 1980s. When the Fairfax County Park Authority acquired the building in 2001, it was renovated to include an improved performance space. Exposed wooden beams soaring to a height of 26 feet, hardwood floors, and a powerful sound system have made this intimate venue popular with traveling bluegrass musicians.

Bluegrass Barn concerts are held in the visitor center.

The Fairfax County Park Authority coordinates nearly 200 outdoor performances each summer in amphitheaters. Establishing an indoor series has long been a goal of Park Authority Events Coordinator Sousan Frankeberger. She said, “Frying Pan was the best fit since the park isn’t as busy during fall and winter months. We know bluegrass is very popular in Northern Virginia and has a lot of fans, and we wanted to tie into the park’s bluegrass history.”

According to Frankeberger, a grassroots volunteer committee was formed to secure high-caliber performers to play gigs at the farm in between tour stops. The committee reaches out informally to agents and touring groups to identify possible concert dates, and then official contracts are issued once the date is secured. So far, the reaction from musicians has been overwhelmingly positive. “They are excited. For them it’s another stop along their way,” said Frankeberger. She noted that lesser known bands are anticipating an increase in their fan base in the area as more people have the opportunity to see their live shows.

To tie together the new series with the traditions of the jam sessions, Frying Pan is moving the jam sessions into the visitor center from 1 to 4 p.m., before the scheduled band takes the stage. Jams, which typically draw 10-20 musicians, have outgrown the Country Store where they’ve always met. Players are looking forward to seeing and meeting bluegrass professionals, and maybe even jamming with them in the true spirit of bluegrass.

Frankeberger enlisted the help of the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park to help promote the series, sell tickets, and to pay the performers. Jack Pitzer, president of the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park and a bluegrass fan, said, “The Friends group will be hosting the event and welcoming folks to this new activity at the park. Any profits will be for improvements at the park.”

Frankeberger would also like to build relationships with local radio stations.  However, the majority of the publicity will come from the committee, the Park Authority, the Friends, and the performers. “It’s going to take a year or two to establish the series,” Frankeberger said. In the meantime, she’s asking all the bluegrass fans out there to help spread the word.

Don’t miss the next concert in the Bluegrass Barn Series! Appalachian Flyer takes the stage on Sunday, November 18 at 7 p.m. This five-musician band from Ellicott City, Maryland has been picking from D.C. to West Virginia since 2007. Bring your appetite! The park’s food vendor, Gordon’s Grille, will be selling barbecue sandwiches, baked beans, coleslaw, and other refreshments before shows begin and during a brief intermission.

Appalachian Flyer

The Bluegrass Barn Series is sponsored by the Fairfax County Park Authority and the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park. Bluegrass Barn concerts can be heard on the first and third Sundays from November through April. Doors open at 6 p.m. Concerts start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance; $15 at the door. Season passes, which include admission to all shows and offer prime, reserved seating, are available for $132. Purchase tickets online, or call 703-222-4664. For more information, call 703-437-9101.

Frying Pan Farm Park visitor center is located at 2739 West Ox Road in Herndon, Va.

By Matthew Kaiser, deputy public information officer

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

HISTORY: • On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. • To date, 11 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2008. Another Park Bond Referendum will be held in November 2012. Today, the Park Authority has 420 parks on approximately 23,168 acres of land. We offer 371 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park System is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: o Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist. o Eight golf courses including Laurel Hill, our newest, upscale course and clubhouse located in Southern Fairfax County o Five nature and visitor centers. Also seven Off-Leash Dog Activity areas o Several lakes including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax o The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter o Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel o An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter o Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel o Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent o A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly o A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale o Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community o Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center o Provides 274 athletic fields, including 30 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 500 school athletic fields PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: • A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. %

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