Entertainment venues in sparsely populated areas face challenges

With a population of just 15,030 according to the 2020 U.S. Census, Alleghany County, a border county with West Virginia, is located in the northernmost part of the Roanoke region.

Located in Alleghany County are the towns of Iron Gate, Clifton Forge, Selma and Low Moor. The town of Covington is the county seat.

The historic Masonic Theater (circa 1905) has been restored to its former grandeur and seats 540 at its location at 510 Main Street in Clifton Forge.

Next to the historic Masonic Theater stands the Masonic Amphitheater, and a few blocks west of there, the Jack Mason Tavern and Brewery occasionally serves as a concert hall.

About five miles east of Clifton Forge, Glen Haven Farm owner Michele Rucker hosts concerts and specializes in planning weddings.

Douthat State Park, mainly located in Bath County, where its amphitheater overlooks the 50-acre Lake Douthat, also serves as an occasional place of entertainment. Whispering Pines Campground, the southernmost area of ​​the park, is located in Alleghany County. Concerts can also be organized there.

Between Douthat State Park and Clifton Forge, the Buckhorne Country Store and Campground, Inc. has Buckhorne Stage, a small outdoor stage where concerts are also held.

At Iron Gate, Bill Cook, a well-known musician from Clifton Forge, has a facility where concerts are also held.

The Jackson River Sports Complex in Covington has the River Rock Amphitheater which serves as the site of the summer concert series funded by the City of Covington which rarely charges admission for its concerts.

Within a 50 mile radius of Clifton Forge there are other venues such as the Lime Kiln Theater in Lexington, the Berglund Center in Roanoke and Carnegie Hall and the State Fairgrounds in Lewisburg.

On Saturday, August 13, the 44th Annual Street Scene drew large crowds to see more than 100 classic motor vehicles and vintage cars and trucks on display along jammed downtown streets. A free concert was held during the evening at the River Rock Amphitheater featuring Five Shades of Grey.

Less than 50 miles to the west, the West Virginia State Fair featured Foreigner on the main stage at the State Fairgrounds.

Thirty miles east of Clifton Forge on the same day, Scott Miller was performing at the Lime Kiln Theater during the Watkins Family Hour show.

Inside Jack Mason’s Tavern & Brewery, a three-piece out-of-town band performed while Christa Garcia and Runnin’ Shine followed her number performed at the Masonic Amphitheater two blocks away.

While the tavern was packed, Runnin’ Shine was playing to a small gathering at the Masonic amphitheater.

Those who attended Streetscene 2022 had then left downtown to attend the free Five Shades of Gray concert at the River Rock Amphitheater or to travel to other destinations.

After being held back by COVID-19 from 2020 to 2021, entertainment venues that sell tickets to events continue to struggle to attract crowds, especially when free entertainment remains an option at nearby venues.

Such was the case on Saturday August 13 in Clifton Forge, where the ticketing venue competed against Streetscene’s free concert at the River Rock Amphitheater just 15 miles west and live music just two blocks away.