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Saint Leonard Volunteer Fire Department

communicate with adequate individuals in St. Leonard and you’ll hear the story — lots of times — towards time country music star Luke Bryan ended up being spotted at World Gym, only later on at a strip shopping mall in Prince Frederick. The singer resolved for an hour after which posed for pictures with followers.

“My buddy has the image on her phone, ” Terry Trefry says with a trace of regret. She didn’t hit the gymnasium that time.

Strange because appears, St. Leonard (populace 751) becomes an important hub of country music scene for a few times annually. The little Calvert County community’s volunteer fire division has hosted a summer show series for almost 10 years, pulling in big-name acts to improve cash when it comes to company. Bryan — whom simply invested two weeks at the top of the Billboard records chart — appeared this past year; he had been preceded by-fellow chart-toppers Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Sugarland and Alan Jackson.

The spectacle grows. Final week-end, Gary Allan and Florida Georgia Line performed in front of a sold-out group, with nearly 6, 300 men and women stuffed in to the sprawling area beside the firehouse on Calvert Beach path; this Sunday, rising star Brantley Gilbert takes the phase the final show associated with season.

In the early days of what's now a yearly custom, some had doubts it might work. At first, no body knew if these types of an off-the-radar occasion could hire well-known performers. Men and women stated, “Those functions are too huge for you personally, ” recalls Roberta Baker, co-chair of show committee.

“Well, ” she said, “we got all of them.”

* * *

a nation music concert in St. Leonard may feature similar acts as the Washington area’s largest venues — in fact, Allan, Gilbert and Florida Georgia Line all will play at nearly 20, 000-capacity Merriweather article Pavilion later this thirty days. The primary huge difference is the fact that the outlying neighborhood really resembles the little cities that country music artists frequently sing about.

On concert times, town descends from the fire division. The event is practically entirely volunteer-run. We all know one another. Cars and trucks make bumper to bumper on the way beside the industry; some park their RVs into the adjacent lot, where they can tailgate then spend evening.

Inside the fire hall, a tiny military of volunteers devours meals before work begins. During each program, the department’s on a regular basis planned volunteer firefighters and EMTs (nonetheless on call for fires and problems) ensure the occasion operates smoothly. They bring their particular young ones, whom bring people they know, who bring their particular neighbors to greatly help. The Calvert County Sheriff’s workplace pitches in, too, providing as protection.

Familial lines operate deep within fire division. Bill Lankford, another concert committee co-chair, has volunteered in the section for over three decades; their partner, Jen, is the fire chief.

“This division is very much indeed like a household, ” Jen stated, adding your family-friendly aspect of the concerts influences the planning procedure. There’s perhaps not a lot to do in Southern Maryland in the summer, and concerts are a great activity for restless kids on holiday.

In the show area, full of people from every generation, regional sellers offer a myriad of food, and aroma of barbecue wafts through air. Into the VIP area, a little firetruck called “Foamy” dispenses beer via faucet manages constructed into its part. A dessert tent provides cookies for a dollar, along with profits planning to charity. Once, a volunteer statements, someone yelled throughout the fence over the roadway, asking when they could purchase some home made fudge.

After many years, the concerts are logistically a well-oiled machine, though things will get frantic with a sold-out crowd. This past Saturday, a sweltering August day before sun took place, Baker ended up being therefore busy that she performedn’t arrive at physically provide the traditional Calvert County-themed present baskets to your performers. The baskets consist of Maryland wine, crammed crab, kettle corn and monogrammed baseballs.

“It was the very first time in eight years used to don’t meet up with the artists, ” Baker stated wistfully. But she saw your performers all finalized the state fireman’s helmet, the one which boasts signatures from every celebrity who may have played in St. Leonard. After that, the helmet extends back to where it belongs, properly locked in fire chief’s workplace.

There is no-one to recall exactly who developed the theory when it comes to show series. “Concerts were a good way to boost resources, ” Baker explained. At the time, she stated, the most common practices — bake product sales, raffles, community dinners, boot drives — weren’t doing the trick. While shows needed so much more work, it seemed like it could pay back in a huge means. (The Calvert aquatic Museum, in nearby Solomons, had many fortune getting well-known vocalists.)

The board of administrators voted purchasing the field beside the firehouse. In 2005, they built the stage, now-known because the Bayside Toyota Pavilion. In July of this 12 months, the Charlie Daniels Band kicked from the inaugural concert.

Several hundred people showed up. It was considered successful, and things grew from there. Initially it proved difficult to create in buzzworthy performers, but organizers performed better after using a booking agent. Word spread in songs neighborhood that St. Leonard’s Volunteer Fire Department was a good, well-organized location to play. That particular reputation goes quite a distance in bringing in artists, no matter what big title. A month after Charlie Daniels’s program, Lonestar played. Prominent nation functions followed (Jo Dee Messina, Montgomery Gentry), with some from away from Nashville realm, like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Hootie while the Blowfish.

Organizers declined to reveal how much money the concerts alllow for the fire division, an authorized nonprofit team. The actual only real people who receives a commission will be the music artists and the noise and technology crews. Pass prices are $35 to $55 — not affordable, but often notably less than similar programs at bigger venues.

Regarding whether the shows bring in much more bucks than it costs to put them on, Baker stated that some do many do not. But generally, the ones that make money replace the ones that do not.

St. Leonard sits near the Chesapeake shore, about 50 miles from Washington and 70 miles from Baltimore. Therefore, besides the income, what’s on it for a favorite singer or group to relax and play a fire department fundraiser in Southern Maryland?

“Maybe it’s because Charlie Daniels said therefore, ” jokes John Howanstein, a pastor from Calvert County that has volunteered their time taking seats at the gate.

Or, Howanstein theorizes, exactly like Iowa is an essential stop ahead of the big phase for presidential aspirants, the St. Leonard Volunteer Fire division is an equivalent knowledge for performers. Also, that irresistible Americana knowledge — supporting regional heroes at the fire division and providing returning to town — is great PR.

Display A: The much-shared anecdote towards day Eric Church performed, together with volunteer firefighters must respond to a telephone call while consuming prior to the tv show. Food went flying as every person scrambled to make it to the crisis. Church was so impressed by the scene, men and women said, that he left behind free concert tees for each and every volunteer. (The shirts had layouts of marijuana leaves on it, so you could not look at firefighters wearing them too usually.)

No matter why the stars come, it's a thrill for diehard followers to sit right in front row and determine designers who usually perform in much bigger arenas. St. Leonard citizen Terry Trefry — the only that would later miss getting Luke Bryan within fitness center — had been thrilled when she scored first-row center seats for his concert. She and a buddy slept overnight outside the box-office and were first-in range with regards to launched at 9 a.m.

She hopes the show series never prevents. “It’s inexpensive, it’s in my own garden, ” Trefry said. “the reason why would i have to get elsewhere?”

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