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Winter Pickin Party proves a successful fundraiser for United Way

By: Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer/ Photographer

The United Way is a nationwide organization that shares a ‘goal for the common good.’ Though the United Way spans the country, it is a community minded organization in that each individual chapter is comprised of volunteers that live within the community they serve. The United Way of Mountain City/Johnson County is one of the largest supporters of non-profit organizations within our community. The latest fundraising endeavor carried out by our local United Way was the ‘Winter Pickin’ Party’- a five-band bluegrass, Celtic, gospel, and old time jam session as well as an intermittent auction of goods appropriated through local artisans, businesses, and organizations. The event took place at Heritage Hall on Saturday, February 23.
An unlikely emcee took the podium at the ‘Winter Pickin’ Party.’ Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey acted as both auctioneer and comic relief at the United Way event. Between Ramsey and ‘Slice of Bluegrass’ member Jack Proffitt, who also acted as emcee, there was a lot of hooting and hollering taking place on stage and Ramsey was quick with a one-liner as he did an impressive job of promoting the items up for bid. Ramsey wasn’t the only politician to make an appearance. State Representative Timothy Hill as well as Mayor Larry Potter were also in attendance.
The items available for auction ranged from paintings to photographs to furniture to sports memorabilia and just about everything in between. George Triplett and Tim Roberts enlisted the help of their students at the Johnson County High School Vocational School. Triplett, Roberts, and their students donated several pieces of handcrafted furniture that bought an excellent price at auction. The highest grossing item of the night was a handcrafted quilt and rack sold to none other than State Representative Timothy Hill for $150.00.
The musicians that volunteered their time for this special United Way event were both local and from several surrounding regions. The first group to perform at the event was “Fire in the Kitchen.” Comprised of Teddy Helton on guitar and banjo; Tammy Martin on hammered dulcimer, Irish bodhran, upright bass, and vocals; and Debbie Shrewsberry on classical flute, penny whistle, Irish low whistle and fiddle, Fire In the Kitchen gave an impressive performance and their Celtic ensemble inspired the feeling of strolling through the rolling green hills of the Irish moors. The group displayed both talent and humility; ending their show with a heartfelt thanks to the United Way for all of the programs the organization supports.
Next to take the stage was “Blue Ridge Faultline.” ‘Faultline’s’ up-tempo opener was a stunning contrast from the soothing harmonies of Fire in the Kitchen. Faultline vocalist and mandolin player, Ron Brickey brought to the stage both personality and a vocal styling that deceived the ears into thinking that a 1940’s Every Ready radio just crackled into life on stage. Brickey’s vocal performance was transcendent and the precise and technical manner of the groups musicianship displayed the perplex interworking of seasoned musicians. Faultline’s members include Clark Mixon on banjo, Nancy Mixon on upright bass, Jim Mixon on guitar, Ron Brickey on mandolin, and Tennessee Jack Shoal, also on guitar.
Third up was local gospel group “New Covenant.” The group brought to the Heritage Hall stage their impressive harmonies and faith minded classic gospel tunes. The group is made up of Carol Moretz on banjo, Gail Evans on upright bass, Mike Murphy on mandolin, Dennis Isaacs on lead guitar, Leonard Arnold on steel and rhythm guitar, and Lesa Arnold, vocals. New Covenant is well known locally for participating in a variety of charitable events that work to support Johnson County residents.
Laurel Creek Trail was the fourth group to take the Heritage Hall stage at the Winter Pickin’ Party. Band members include Mike Taylor on guitar, Dan Isaacs on banjo, Buddy Morefield on mandolin, and Chris McElraft on upright bass. The tempo at which the group was able to maintain precision was astonishing and one may have found themselves wondering whether or not Buddy Morefield’s fingers would become engulfed in flames as he ‘picked’ his mandolin at rapid-fire speed. Named after a Johnson County hiking splendor, Laurel Creek Trail is a community minded group that expressed thanks in being a part of supporting the United Way.
Concluding the night of musicianship, unity, and thanksgiving was Slice of Bluegrass. The members of Slice of Bluegrass include Jack Proffitt, Quint Reece, Barry Reece, and Bob Mink. The group also welcomed Blue Ridge Faultlines own Tennessee Jack Shoal to the stage to stand in on banjo. Slice of Bluegrass has a reputation for greatness and they didn’t disappoint. The group was a fitting closer to a night of fun and music.

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