FREWSBURG – Crowds gathered around the Frewsburg fire brigade stage on Saturday, eager to hear some old favorites after a year and a half without live music.
The very first Bash in the Burg went off without a hitch, providing guests with a country music festival with a family and family appeal.
The festival featured local band South 62, as well as performances by Steve Dean, Clayton Smalley, Keith Burns and Timothy Baker, all of Nashville, Tenn. Local vendors also participated, including Merritt Estate Winery, Basil and Bones, Aces Kettle Corn, and Sandy’s Candy. The fire department also operated a beer barn and a catering tent.
Jeff Lewis, a member of the South 62 group and a resident of Frewsburg, said he was happy to help organize the event and make a difference in the community. “Our band is doing really well right now – we have a song on the country music charts – ‘Talk of the Town’. It really rolls “, Lewis said. “Grassroots Promotions is promoting ourselves and we’ve befriended all these people in Nashville. I grew up here in Frewsburg and ever since I got into music I always wanted to have a big music festival here. Finally, I had the right relationships with the right people.
Lewis said the Frewsburg Volunteer Fire Department needed a fundraiser this year because the annual gala days again could not take place. He said the Bash in the Burg event was held to raise money for firefighters, but he also supported the local midget football program through can training.
“I wanted to bring the community together, and it’s nice to see everyone here without masks”, Lewis said. “We can go out and have fun again. This is only our third gig since COVID, so we’re just going back to it. People are sitting here enjoying the day – no stress, no pressure – it’s just fun. Everyone needs a big dose of this.
South 62 has recently performed in various parts of the region including Warren, PA and Franklin, PA. Lewis said the group will travel to Nashville in October. He said fans should keep an eye on the group’s social media and YouTube pages to stay on top of what they’re up to.
“We’re trying to share every step of this on our social media with anyone who wants to hear it so they can experience the whole race with us. “ he said. “Good or bad, we put it up there. “
Steve Dean, musician and songwriter, said he jumped at the chance to be a part of the music festival.
“John Griffin is a good friend of mine and he’s a record promoter with Grassroots in Nashville. He and Jeff (Lewis) hooked up on this and they put it all together a few months ago ”, said the dean. “With COVID and all, live music has been gone from us for at least a year and a half. So I’m just grateful to be here in Frewsburg and a beautiful part of the state, playing live music.
He said making sure people have some happiness in their lives is really important. COVID has taken its toll on everyone, including musicians.
“Especially since COVID, people have been hungry for live music and entertainment”, said the dean. “We got nothing – we were locked in our homes. I jumped on it as soon as I heard about it because I think it’s a great opportunity to be able to bring a little joy to some people in the community. It has been a difficult time, and it is not over either. I hope they can get it under control. But we’re trying to look on the bright side – and that’s a good side here. “
Dean said he had never been to Frewsburg before, but enjoyed his time in the area very much.
He has written several well-known country songs over the years, which he performed during the festival, including “In circles on the way” which was performed by George Straight; “Star of the South”, performed by Alabama; and “Looking at you,” performed by Rodney Atkins.
“A lot of people will say I don’t really know ‘I’m looking at you’, what is it?” “ said the dean. “And I say ‘Well, this is a little boy looking at his daddy, you know’, and they say ‘Oh, Buckaroo’s song!'”
He said he had been writing songs since he was 9 years old.
“I’m originally from Little Rock – there’s a lot of music there, but there’s no music business there”, said the dean. “My dad suggested when I got out of college that maybe I should go to Nashville. I thought of New York and California, but I’m a bit of a homebody. I went to Nashville in 1980, and have been there ever since.
Dean said he enjoys helping people, which sparked his interest in the Bash in the Burg event. Most recently, he said he was working on a project to help veterans called Freedom Sings USA.
“I love,” said the dean. “We write veteran stories. It was a real change for me.
He said the organization is based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but throughout the pandemic it has expanded its reach nationwide. More information can be found on Facebook or FreedomSingsUSA.org.
“We are trying to help as many veterans as possible”, he said.
Dean mentioned that everyone should focus on helping others, including the artists behind the music they enjoy.
“Whenever you have the chance, support live music and support artists” said the dean. “This is how many artists and writers make a living – they sold products. Much of it is downloaded for free these days which has practically killed the songwriting industry. “
Dean urged the audience to pay for their music to support the musicians and songwriters they value so they can keep making music.
Cory Lauffenburger, president of the Frewsburg Fire Department, said the Bash in the Burg could replace gala days, depending on the success of the event.
“Attendance at the Gala Days decreases every year and it is more difficult to bring in the transport companies because of the laws of the State of New York”, Lauffenburger said. “This was brought to our attention two months ago by Jeff Lewis and our city supervisor, Russ Payne. If it gets too big, it could be one thing every year. “
Lisa Piazza, a volunteer with the fire company, said the number of presale tickets was between 400 and 500 before the event, but the total number had yet to be counted.
“We missed so much last year with COVID, so we’re really trying to get some of that money back that helps firefighters operate,” she said.
Lauffenburger said the department has been unable to host its annual Turkey Day, gun show, fish fries and other events in the past year. He said he hoped to see the music festival become a popular event in the future.
Lauffenburger said he was grateful to the volunteers from the fire department who made the event possible. He said the grounds needed to be cleaned and prepared for the event, as they had not been used in previous years. Lauffenburger said volunteers in the department often worked 40 to 50 hours per week at their full-time job, only to make calls at night while preparing for the event. Although this is a large-scale undertaking for the department, Lauffenburger said it all happened on time.
“We thank everyone for their support – hoping this becomes more and more important every year”, added Lauffenburger.
He said firefighters will be holding other events throughout the year, including a raffle and a Turkey party. For up-to-date information on events, Lauffenburger said he was keeping an eye on the department’s Facebook page. Questions can also be directed through Facebook Messenger, as the department makes an effort to regularly verify the account.
For those who couldn’t make it to the event but would like to donate, he said checks can be sent to PO Box 590, Frewsburg NY. Lauffenburger said tours of the fire department and opportunities to view their equipment are also available on Tuesday evenings.
County Director PJ Wendel said he was happy to see the community come together to support a good cause in a family-friendly way. He said he was happy to see the band, South 62, come together with the community to benefit the fire department.
Wendel said he understands the need to raise money for volunteer firefighters because they are unfunded. While some services are funded by the municipalities they serve, many outlying fire departments are not. However, he said he can see the event being a big success for the fire department in the future.
“The opportunities are endless” Wendel said of the future music festivals. “The best part is that it’s safe, family-friendly and popular. It’s just chilling people – not commercialized – just hanging out. “
Wendel said he looks forward to seeing the event return year after year. He said there are ways to develop the festival, which he believes will be forthcoming.
“It could explode into a big event, and I think it’s great for the community”, he said. “That’s what community is, and these are the (important) things we have here in Chautauqua County.”