Sagebrush Round-up opens doors a year after COVID closure

David Kirk, Times West Virginian, Fairmont
·3 min read

Apr. 4—BUNNER RIDGE — For the third weekend in a row, sounds of music drifted about the Bunner Ridge area of Marion County.

Board members of the nonprofit Sagebrush Round-up are glad to be able to present live music once again amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I'm happy to be open," said Chris Johnson, vice president of the Sagebrush Round-up. "I've been coming here since I was a kid, I fell in love with the place and I don't care if I ever leave."

The Sagebrush Round-up in Bunner Ridge was forced to shut its doors due to COVID-19 last March, but on March 27, 2021, they opened back up one day short of a year to the day that they closed.

Their first two shows served as warm-ups for the show they put on Saturday night. Just in time for Easter, the Round-up put on a Country-Gospel Hour, featuring a few bluegrass gospel acts, including Larry DeLawder.

DeLawder and his family, who came to Fairmont from Branson, Mo., perform gospel music, but DeLawder is well known for his impression of the Andy Griffith Show character Barney Fife, originally played by Morgantown native Don Knotts.

The Sagebrush Round-up Band and board Member Brandon Howdershelt, who was excited to be back on the stage, served as hosts for the evening.

"It's definitely different, being able to play for a live audience," said Howdershelt. "We were off 364 days. The last whole year we played for a bunch of empty seats and now we get to see people dancing on the dance floor."

While its doors were closed, the Round-up didn't sit idle. The curtains were steamed, the floors waxed and all-new audience seats were installed.

Much of that was made possible with money from the state. The Round-up gets a $4,000 grant each year from the state, but this year Gov. Jim Justice matched the grant with an additional $4,000.

A chunk of the funds went toward putting on Saturday's show, which had quite the line up.

"We wanted to have a bit of a special show featuring some great bluegrass-gospel," said Howdershelt. "We really wanted to have a special show for Easter Weekend."

But many people in the area don't know about the fun on Bunner Ridge and they are missing out, he said. Chuck Westfall, who plays steel guitar for the Round-up band, agreed.

"They're missing a good time, fellowship and lots of friends," said Westfall. "But they're especially missing the good music."

Sagebrush Round-up dates back to the thirties and not only is it a music hall but also houses the West Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame and a museum to go along with it.

The Round-up plans to keep its weekly events going, and more information about them can be found by searching @WVCMA on Facebook or searching Sagebrush Round-up.

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at dkirk@timeswv.com.