By ALLEN RAU
“Who knew 20 years ago that this is what it would become?”
It’s a question that Steve Cook, the semi-retired past owner of the Jonesborough Art Glass Gallery pondered recently.
As the organizer of Jonesborough’s Music on the Square, he is in a good position to know. On Friday, March 23, from 6 to 10 p.m., the McKinney Center will host a gala fundraiser for the spring and summer live music events.
Cook said the gala will feature music from the Myrtle Beach-based band Sol Driven Train, heavy hors d’oeuvres from Noli Food Truck and drinks from either Tennessee Hills or Depot Street Brewery. Anyone purchasing tickets to the event will also receive two drink tickets.
According to Cook, there will also be a live auction with offerings including a hot air balloon ride, a stay at the Historic Eureka Inn and a zip-line tour of Linville Gorge, as well as numerous art pieces.
The proceeds from the event will support this year’s Music on the Square events, all of which are free and are held every Friday night from May through September.
While there are many similar events throughout the region, Cook believes the Jonesborough events are unique.
“(The event) is the most attentive audience that many bands ever play for,” Cook said. “They’re not drinking, not smoking, and you don’t have to play over the crowd. It really is a great family-oriented setting.
“We wanted to bring some people to town after 5 p.m.”
As organizer of one of the first live music events in the area, Cook has witnessed many changes over the 20 years the event has been held.
“What’s changed over 20 years is how many other places have music and the different venues, (and) every club has a stage,” Cook said. “I had a friend from Kingsport who said, ‘Yours is the best. We go to Kingsport for the party and we go to Jonesborough for the music.’ There are so many performers that are so good that you’ll never hear of because there are so many of them. I always say I’ve got too many bands and not enough Fridays.”
During the concerts some of the downtown businesses keep their doors open, and while there are no food or beer trucks, Cook said the music is reason enough to be there.
“You’ll hear heartbreak, you’ll hear joy and stress, you’ll hear relaxing music. I’ve had performers from Australia, from the UK, from Africa. I’ve had Native American hoop dancers. Entertainment is the key word.”
The gala fundraiser will be the first event of the year and according to Cook, “It’s an opportunity for people to have a nice evening out and support a good cause.”
Tickets are available for $40 while a table for eight is $280. Tickets are available at Jonesborough.com/tickets or call (423) 753-1010.