By Callie Heitala
After a long year of pandemic-induced isolation and event cancellations, music has returned to Uptown Martinsville.
On August 6, the Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society will host its third open mic event on the plaza of the historic Henry County Courthouse, built in 1824. The events will take place on the First Friday of every month through October from 6-8 p.m. and are free to attend.
First Fridays began as Uptown Open Mic, a one-time event organized by the Historical Society to celebrate the closing of an exhibit on female activism throughout Virginia’s history, as well as raise awareness of the museum within the community. Nearly 100 people attended the initial event.
Bolstered by the success of that first event, the Historical Society Board voted to continue the gatherings, and First Friday was born.
The goal now is to reinvent the idea of the courthouse as a community gathering place. Over the years, the courthouse and its grounds have witnessed not only courtroom trials, but business dealings, auctions, political rallies, and speeches. First Friday gives the community a new reason to gather here.
Local musicians Kat and Dennis Calfee host each open mic.
“Our open mics welcome musicians from all talent levels from beginners to seasoned players,” said Kat Calfee.
“We enjoy hosting open mics [because] we get to meet, and sometimes perform with, musicians in a variety of genres. The open mic at the courthouse is particularly enjoyable because it’s very relaxed and laid back,” Dennis Calfee said.
Though it is hosted by musicians, the event is intended to showcase more than just music. Anyone with a talent they want to share, whether it be music, dance, stand-up comedy, or even a poetry recitation, is invited to step up to the mic and perform for the community.
First Fridays are sponsored by the Rotary Clubs of Martinsville and Henry County and by the Historical Society’s annual sponsors, Carter Bank & Trust and The Lester Group. A cash bar is set up at each event with proceeds benefiting the Historical Society.