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Willis Gap jam lives up to its name

ARARAT, Va. — A recent event at Willis Gap Community in Ararat lived up its name in more ways than one.

Not only did the July 22 edition of a regular Friday night open jam involve various musicians playing together during impromptu sessions in an informal setting at the center on The Hollow Road.

A “superb crowd” also jammed into the relatively small venue, according to Mary Dellenback Hill, the secretary of the Willis Gap Community Center Board of Directors and the local Dan River District representative for the Patrick County Tourism Department.

The event drew nearly 100 people in all, including more than 20 musicians and singers, Hill reported. All age groups were represented.

It was part of a weekly series in which the Willis Gap Community Center Open Jam welcomes the public each Friday, when the doors are open from 6 to 10 p.m. to musicians and singers of all skill levels along with fans.

It includes acoustic instruments and features multiple musical genres such as Appalachian heritage old-time, bluegrass, country and gospel.

The Willis Gap Community Center Open Jam took root in the mid-1990s, when groups of musicians would meet regularly at a local home.

Their growing popularity subsequently prompted a move of the jam sessions to the community center, located at 144 The Hollow Road in Ararat, for the Friday night series. The Willis Gap open jam is now an affiliated partner of The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail.

That alliance links various communities in Southwest Virginia, Willis Gap and Floyd among them, which are helping to preserve the traditional genres through regular performance sites and in other ways.

The July 22 Willis Gap session was especially well-attended, with Hill explaining that she had put out word about group photos to be taken then, reflecting the historical-preservation aspect of the weekly event.

“A lot of musicians knew ahead of time,” she added.

Then there were the regular attractions that have helped popularize the Willis Gap Community Center Open Jam that has been in operation for more than 25 years.

In addition to the music, it offers dancing, family friendly fun and fellowship, along with and food prepared in a kitchen that opens at 6 p.m. ahead of the performances starting at 7 p.m.

Items including hot dogs, chips, candy, cakes, coffee and sodas are sold.

Another activity is involved which tends to be a part of many gatherings these days, a 50-50 drawing.

“We had a large drawing,” Hill mentioned in the wake of the July 22 jam, which resulted in $73 going to the winner and the same sum to the center.

All proceeds from the weekly jams benefit Willis Gap Community Center.



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