Jamboree Finds Home In Gayville

GAYVILLE — Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Merle Haggard … three singers who have never performed at Gayville Hall.

But thanks to Doug Sharples, their music resonates throughout the building and in the ears of area music fans a couple times a year.

For the last nine years, Sharples has worked to bring in singers and variety groups to pack Gayville Hall, which he co-owns with his wife Judi. One of the most frequent shows is the Hay Country Jamboree, which he presents once a month. Other shows are tributes to singers of the past, like Cash, Haggard and Williams.

This Saturday, the monthly Hay Country Jamboree tradition continues at Gayville Hall starting at 8 p.m.

Sharples has been putting on variety shows since 2002, which included a show called the Dakota Opry.

"I wanted to create a show that people would show up regularly so the promotion wouldn't be as hard," he said. "I produced some shows in Gayville Hall and Okoboji, Iowa."

The Dakota Opry was presented until 2005, when another group in Sioux Falls started using the same title.

Sharples tried to get the Dakota Opry name back, but after a while, he decided to take an easier route.

"I said, 'The heck with it,' and came up with another name," he said. "Since Gayville Hall is in Gayville, and Gayville is the 'Hay Capital of the World,' I thought the Hay Country Jamboree would be a good title."

Sharples rechristened the show in 2006, and it has been going strong ever since, as it performs on the first or second Saturday from March to November.

"I define it as a musical variety show that features old-time American songs," said Sharples about the type of music that is performed. "It's a fast-paced show that has three acts to as many as five acts, and usually those acts are on the stage at the same time and they trade songs. It's several acts, and there is a lot of humor to it, as well."

Sharples has put on the show with the help of his longtime friend John McNeill and his wife Susan of Springfield.

"I started working with them when I was a filming documentaries, and John laid down a lot of the music tracks for me," Sharples said. "This was another way to work with them."

Sharples added that the McNeills have turned into the hosts of the show.

"John is like the musical host, and in recent years, he has become more interested in country music, so I call them our country hosts," he said.

Dan Kilbride is another frequent performers in the show.

"Dan is originally from Wakonda. He is a bluegrass banjo player (with) a wonderful, funny stage personality," Sharples said.  

This Saturday, the McNeills and Kilbride will be joined by Ervin Pickhinke, known as the "Singing Farmer."  

"Ervin farmed all of his life in northwest Iowa and is now retired," Sharples said. "He is a terrific performer and our audiences love him. It will be his third or fourth performance."

Some of the past performers include singer-songwriter Jami Lynn and cowboy poet Ed Nesselhuf.

"Jami is pretty popular in the area. We had her for our August show and she was terrific!" Sharples said. "She will be in our Oct. 2 show, and we are hoping to have her in a few shows a year because she is a great talent."

Sharples also likes to sprinkle his calendar with tribute shows, with the next one on Sept. 18. This show will be "It's Been Good To Know You: The Songs Of Woody Guthrie."

"This will be the first tribute show that we do to him, and I have wanted to do a Woody Guthrie show because his songs are tremendous," Sharples said.

The McNeills will help put on the tribute along with Owen DeJong and Nick Schwebach.

"Nick and Owen are very accomplished, masterful musicians," Sharples said.
Sharples is also bring in Evie Johnson to perform some of Guthrie's songs.

"Evie actually went to New York City to the Woody Guthrie archives and got a scholarship for it," he said. "She was in the Hay Country Jamboree in July, and she has sung a lot of his songs before."

Sharples said Gayville Hall can hold 160 people comfortably, but he added that they have had as many as 250 people there.

The Gayville Hall season winds down in December with its annual Christmas show with the Poker Alice Band.

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