Boalsburg is a great place.
It’s a more affordable place to live than its grossly overpriced neighbor State College, it’s sandwiched between Tussey Mountain and Shingletown Gap — which makes it a premier place to live in our region — it has great restaurants like Duffy’s Tavern and Kelly’s Steak & Seafood, a sweet breakfast place called The Pump Station, a phenomenal farmers market every Tuesday and a rootin’-tootin’ music joint called The Bar.
But, Boalsburg is most famous for something else: being the self-proclaimed birthplace of Memorial Day. To help the holiday along this year The Bar is coming through with some big music, including local legend Ken Volz on Thursday, Pure Cane Sugar on Friday, Mariachi Del Val on Saturday and live pickin’ on the patio by an array of musicians on Monday.
“It’s important to have music here for people to stop by and check out,” said Jonathan “Chyers” Myers, manager at The Bar. “Sometimes this place looks a little rough. It’s always nice to have a good draw point to have people to come in here, and music’s the biggest one, and we’re booked almost into August.”
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Voltz is a regular on the Centre County scene, playing The Bar quite frequently. His stability, coupled with the semi-regular appearance of the ethereal beauty of Pure Cane Sugar on Friday make for stellar, local offerings.
“Playing at The Bar is like playing at your favorite neighborhood party,” Pure Cane Sugar guitarist and singer Kate Twoey said. “The Bar has some of the most loyal regulars of any bar in town, who, along with the amazing staff, are very supportive and respectful of all of the musicians who play there. We always find it's a comfortable atmosphere in which we can try new things and be creative.”
Of the weekend's slate of live music offerings, Mariachi Del Val is the biggest eye-opener, mostly because Centre County isn’t exactly a hotbed for mariachi music — and The Bar doesn’t seem like the most obvious choice for a mariachi gig.
"Sometimes people think The Bar’s a little rough and tough, a bunch of construction workers, local yokels,” Myers said, “and then you have a band that comes in and sings nothing but pretty Spanish music.”
It’s bound to be a memorable weekend, even if there is some debate as to where Memorial Day was officially started, which according to the federal government is Waterloo, New York. The holiday was originally called Decoration Day and was initiated to honor members of the United States military who fought and died in the Civil War. Towns all over America started celebrating the day, and Waterloo was chosen by the federal government as the birthplace because it had a notable celebration. The truth about the birthplace of Memorial Day is elusive, and, as is the case with such things, likely a matter of perception. Therefore, Boalsburg has as much of a right to claim itself as the birthplace as any other town.
Regardless of how and where it originated, the holiday has expanded to honor all members of the United States military, living a deceased, active or inactive.
On a personal note, while I have a general distaste and distrust of our political processes, I do support and love our members of the military. The Marines may have saved my dad’s life. He came from a tough background marked by addiction, dysfunction and abuse, and although he thankfully did not go into combat during the Vietnam war, enlisting and becoming a Captain in the Marines helped him end that cycle and become a hero in his personal life, and to me. The cycle ended with him. He gave his family the gift of the stability he never had. So, thank you for your service, Dad, and thank to all of my dad’s military brothers and sisters. We see you.
From a musical standpoint, Twoey characteristically said it best when she expressed her appreciation of the holiday and of Boalsburg’s heartfelt attachment to the purpose.
“It’s an honor to live in a town in which such a respectful tradition was born more than 150 years ago,” Towey said. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to entertain everyone who comes to celebrate those who have served our country, and most importantly stop, remember their sacrifices and give thanks."
Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at . KevinTBriggs@gmail.com