Country music fans and performers alike gathered to revel in their favorite tunes at the Fall Country Music Festival on Saturday, Sept. 8 in the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center.
Members of Memory Lane performed country songs from past decades along with gospel songs and other crowd favorites. Martin Miller, emcee and guitarist, said the festival marked the second year for the free spring and fall events — as well as the second year the full ensemble played together. Several of the band members also perform in local nursing homes, and Jack Owens plays in Mexico nursing homes. Miller's wife, Betty, started up the weekly senior dances in 1974 at the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center.
The members of Memory Lane are Martin and Betty Miller, drums; Harlon Lain, guitar; Wendell Glance, guitar; Greg Cornelius, bass; and Jack Owens, steel guitar. Owens drove from Montgomery City for the performance.
Among the friends on stage was Sam Branstetter, who was inducted into the Cowtown Society of Western Swing in Mineral Wells, Texas, and the International Country Music Hall of Fame in Le Mars, Iowa — a traditional country music hall of fame that solely features acoustic music. "Well, for a old poor country boy like me, it was quite an honor," he said, noting his eagerness to perform in the festival. "I appreciate them asking me to be here."
He said Virgil Watts joined the Cowtown Society of Western Swing the same year he did. Watts watched the show with a smile, noting he was also a hall of fame member in Washington State, Oklahoma and Florida.
Ronn Pashia joined Branstetter, Sue Taylor and other guest musicians and vocalists on songs like "Old Love Affair," "Bye, Bye Blackbird" and "Cowboy Sweetheart." Several couples hit the dance floor for songs like "I Hear the South Callin' Me" and "Ramblin' Fever."
Martin smiled as he looked out at the crowd, saying he appreciated the Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department for providing the venue for free to the band and audience members.
"Parks and Recreation here in Hannibal, they go out of their way to promote community events here, and all their employees do an excellent job," he said. "They give me the appearance that they're doing this partly because they want to, not just for the money."