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Bluegrass concert to benefit Ro-Na restoration

Steve Shelton is organizing a concert with The Boxcars for March 30 at Ironton High School.


Ironton bluegrass guitarist Steve Shelton is on a mission and it has more to do than with simply promoting a concert with his kind of music.

He wants to see Ironton become as much of an entertainment destination as any other place in the Tri-State. And if Shelton succeeds in his goal, the community mission to restore a one-time cultural icon in Ironton will be a little richer.

“I have always been a little frustrated that we never can get anything going on our side of the river,” Shelton said. “Anybody looking for entertainment has to look to Ashland or Huntington. But we have just as much ability to have an entertainment concert. We have the opportunity to have an event where people can come to our town, spend money in our town and eat in our restaurants.”

To attract those people and their entertainment dollars Shelton is organizing a concert with The Boxcars for March 30 at Ironton High School. That’s the emerging contemporary bluegrass group that pulled multiple awards at last year’s IBMA show including instrumental group of the year and mandolin and banjo player of the year.

This is not your granddaddy’s bluegrass, Shelton says.

“Bluegrass has changed a whole lot,” he said. “When a lot of people think of bluegrass, they think of old mountain music. The Boxcars’ music has absolutely fantastic musicianship. It’s very modern sound, more contemporary.”

And if Shelton can get enough bluegrass fans at the concert to fill the house of the

Ironton High, Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital will donate a dollar for every seat in the Ro-Na Theater. That will mean $600 toward the theater’s restoration, along with part of the proceeds from the concert already earmarked for the Ro-Na.

That support from OLBH is on top of the hospital’s picking up the cost of advertising for the concert. Joining OLBH as sponsors are also Johnny on the Spot-Storage on the Spot, Rudy Fest bluegrass festival in Grayson, Ky., Carey’s Auto Center, Bob Clyse Chevrolet-Buick-GMC and the Ironton Port Authority.

“It gets to me that we always have to leave Ironton to have entertainment,” Shelton said. But once we get the Ro-Na up and running,” Shelton said. “I have contacts to bring the best names in the business. (The Ro-Na) is going to be a great place. It looks like a little Paramount (Arts Center). I see different events we can have there.”

In fact, Shelton envisions the Ro-Na as a venue to bring arts education to students in the area.

“It is scary that the arts are being cut out of our schools,” he said. “People could come in to do songwriting workshops. We could have an after-school program to provide them with instrumental instruction, songwriting instruction, to get their music out in the world.”

Shelton got hooked on bluegrass when he picked up his brother’s guitar and taught himself some basic chords. From that he joined with friends to form Boss Tweed, a bluegrass group where he played guitar and sang lead and tenor vocals.

“We played together for 10 years,” he said. “We had a decent following in Ironton.”

Now the band is back for a one-night reunion and will open for The Boxcars at the Ironton High concert.

“It will be time for us to be on stage again,” Shelton said. “We have a need for this kind of thing. It is really important for the community to come to it to allow us to do another one and another one.

“The people of this town really deserve to stay in their town. The folks who have invested in our town, they deserve for us to make an effort.”

Tickets for the 7 p.m. concert are $18 in advance or $20 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at www.boxcars.com website and click on the March 30 link or by calling 534-3908.