Revitalizing downtown Boydton with a regional music festival
Collaborating to develop a local bluegrass event
In 2019, Microsoft partnered with Historic Boydton’s Renaissance (HBR) to provide $5,000 (in addition to $5,000 in matching community funds) to help fund the inaugural Bluegrass in Boydton concert series. The project also brought together support from 45 other local organizations, including Pecht Distributors, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Memorial Hospital, and Mecklenburg Electric, and solicited sponsorships from various local businesses. Microsoft worked with non-profit HBR, whose main purposes are to enrich and preserve the local heritage, to foster a center of activity, and to ensure economic stability in the community. Microsoft’s funds helped HBR promote and execute the event, and Microsoft was recognized as a sponsor.
Held on the fourth Saturdays of June, July, and August, this three-part concert series brought together bluegrass musicians, while also offering food and beverage vendors and a beer garden, and providing areas for local businesses to sell their unique products and wares. At only $5 per person, the festival offered inexpensive fun for the entire family.
Furthering economic development in Boydton
HBR aims to promote and encourage the implementation of effective and comprehensive techniques that will further the organization, design, promotion, and economic restructuring of Boydton, while adhering to guidelines established by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Microsoft, which has had a datacenter in the area since 2011, was looking to develop a deeper community partnership. While Microsoft had contributed to various projects in the past, it hoped to support a more prominent community event. When Boydton approached Microsoft with the opportunity to sponsor the Bluegrass in Boydton festival, it was seen as an ideal opportunity to bring greater awareness to the community and the partnership.
Greater Mecklenburg County proved a unique tourist destination for attendees, home to two lakes with over 800 miles of shoreline, multiple campgrounds, three wineries, and miles of hiking trails. The greater impact of the festival was significant; area campgrounds, local restaurants and bars, and other nearby businesses saw an economic boost on festival weekends. The goal is to establish this event, in addition to the annual Boydton Day, as an attraction for residents of Mecklenburg County and beyond. It will give back to other non-profit organizations in the area and create interest in the town’s historic venues.
The festival area and downtown Boydton are also serviced by free community Wi-Fi, a project that was implemented by Microsoft and Lake Country Internet, so visitors and performers alike had internet access during the events.
Nathan Hamm, Microsoft IT Operations Manager, says, “The way that [HBR] ran the event and the turnout has been phenomenal. Some of the bigger name bluegrass bands that they brought forth were surprising.” Acts included Dan Tyminski (of O Brother, Where Art Thou? fame), Appalachian Express, and Summer Brooke and the Mountain Faith Band (regional bluegrass groups).
“I think even they were blown away with the participation and how far folks were traveling to come to the festival. They were very much surprised and it really did have a worthwhile community impact.”Nathan Hamm, Microsoft IT Operations Manager
Taking advantage of historic resources
The Bluegrass in Boydton concerts were held at the Boyd Tavern, a national historic landmark that dates back to the late 1700s; the landmark’s foundation works to contribute to the culture and historic environment of Southern Virginia through the restoration, maintenance, and preservation of the Boyd Tavern as a historic landmark and museum. The building’s expansive front porch served as the perfect backdrop for the visiting bluegrass performers, while the entire street was shut down for spectators. After each concert, local musicians were invited onto the porch with their own instruments to participate in a “pick on the porch” jam session.
“I think even they were blown away with the participation and how far folks were traveling to come to the festival. They were very much surprised and it really did have a worthwhile community impact,” said Hamm. The town looks forward to continuing the event going forward, and recently announced the festival’s 2020 dates.