Hundreds of people converged on the Broad Street parking lot in Uptown Martinsville last Friday when the popular TGIF concert series kicked off for the summer. The concerts, hosted by the newly-combined Rotary Club of Martinsville and Henry County, provide an opportunity for locals and visitors alike to enjoy a warm summer evening of music in the heart of the city.
Rotary took over TGIF, which originally was organized by the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, in 2019 said Ruth Ann Collins, Rotary club secretary.
“We used to be one of the organizations that volunteered with the event,” she said. When they were approached about taking over leadership of the event, “we thought it was something we would enjoy doing and it’s been a lot of fun.
“We start planning as early as January and February” for the three shows of the summer series, she said. Some Rotarians are tasked with securing bands, others find sponsors, while some coordinate with various organizations within the city.
Rotarian Carol Lovell said Rotary works with the city to get a permit, Public Works to close down the parking lot, the Sheriff’s Office to cordon off the parking lot, with the Electric Department to provide power for the stage and equipment.
The day of the event, there is still work to be done. “(Rotarian) Rob King has been here practically all day,” Lovell said, “waiting for vendors to come in and making himself available.”
So eager were some for the festivities to begin that they arrived a full hour ahead of show time, setting up their chairs right in front of the stage, waiting patiently for it to begin. As the audience filled in around them, a number of community organizations joined with Rotary to populate the parking lot with activities for attendees.
Among those set up in the lot last Friday night was local coffee shop The Ground Floor, on hand selling lemonades to help stave off the summer heat. Hugo’s Restaurant and Sports Bar was set up with hamburgers hot off the griddle to feed hungry music-lovers. The Boys & Girls Club of Martinsville and Henry County was set up selling rubber ducks ahead of their annual duck race at Smith River Fest, one of the festival’s most highly-anticipated events.
Across the parking lot, the Martinsville-Henry County Community Health and Wellness bus was parked, with community health workers on site to discuss health issues with visitors and distribute take-home bags that included at-home COVID tests and hand wipes. They were also prepared to give COVID shots or boosters to those who might need them. Before the music even began Community Health Worker Karen Millner said COVID vaccines had been given to five people.
“We have a mobile clinic. We’re giving out COVID vaccines, first dose, second dose, boosters, whatever people need,” said Brooke Roberson, an intern with the West Piedmont Health District. “We’re also checking blood pressure if you need that done.”
Millner said she and her fellow health workers met Lovell at this year’s Kiwanis Pancake Day. Lovell invited the team to attend TGIF, which they were happy to do because “the objective is to get a shot in the arm.”
Millner cautioned that COVID-19 “is not going anywhere,” particularly as the new BA-5 variant continues to circulate.
On the other side of the parking lot, serving beer and wine to thirsty patrons, was a group of people dressed in bright red shirts with Elks emblazoned in white on the back. The Martinsville Elks Lodge
As the Elks served up their brews and brought in ticket sales, The Pizzaz Band was rocking the stage with a selection of Top 40 hits. Some audience members nodded their head or tapped their toes to the music.
Lynnette Kyle, Elk Lodge secretary, said this is the second year that the Elks have helped Rotary with the event.
“We worked the first event last year and did such a great job, they asked us to come back.” She said the Elks will be at all of the TGIF events this year.
“In my opinion, we don’t do enough to toot our own horn,” Kyle said of partnering with Rotary for the events. “We do so much good in the community and we need to keep getting our name out there. We have a lot of members, but a lot of people in Martinsville and Henry County don’t even know we exist.”
Kyle said that the Elks are a national organization with nearly 1 million members nationwide. “Our official name is the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks,” she said, adding that the mission of the Elks is “doing good, not only to your fellow man but in your communities.”
In addition to other projects, Elks particularly focus on helping veterans. “Our motto is, as long as there are veterans, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks will never forget.”
As just one example of that service to veterans, Kyle said for 15 years before COVID, she and other Elks traveled to the VA hospital in Roanoke each month to play BINGO with veterans, purchasing canteen books from their campus store as prizes, allowing winners to purchase clothing, snacks, and other items from the store.
In the community, she said the Elks use grant funding and a partnership with a local vendor to provide book bags, shoes, socks, a book, and school supplies to local children in need.
She said the Elks view supporting Rotary with the TGIF events as a way to “support the community however we can.”
Rotary, too, is a community-focused organization. The profits from TGIF stay in the community,” Collins said, as those audience members who remained at the end of the evening continued to dance during the band’s curtain call.
The money, she said, goes toward Rotary scholarships for local youth. “We try to support the community and the money goes back towards that,” she said. Ultimately, she said, the months of work and the three summer shows are about “bringing the community together.”
The remaining 2022 TGIF concerts will be on Aug. 19 (The Kings) and Sept. 16 (Slick Jr. & the Reactors.) All shows begin at 7 p.m. in the Bridge Street parking lot in Martinsville. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased at the gate.
This year’s TGIF title sponsors are Carter Bank & Trust, Burton & Company, Rives S. Brown, and Southwestern Virginia Gas.
For more information on the TGIF concerts, visit @TGIFConcertSeries on Facebook.