Kings Prairie concert brings back musical memories

Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Honoring festival coordinator A round of applause was offered by organizers of the annual Kings Prairie concert for the volunteers who make the event possible. Linda Hammons, at left, and her brother Sam Helmkamp, at right, with Al Brumley Jr. offered a special tribute to Louella Helmkamp, longtime festival coordinator who passed away during the past year. Not present was Perry Helmkamp, Louella's other son.

Around 300 people turned out for the 13th annual Kings Prairie benefit concert at the historic Kings Prairie school, east of Monett, on Aug. 11. The performers reveled in perfect weather and the scenic setting, providing nearly three hours of toe-tapping music.

Promptly at 6 p.m., Red Bridge began its bluegrass set, sending a shower of banjo notes from Mark Zimmerman into the air to open "Shuckin' the Corn." Group leader Larry Mayfield on lead guitar provided lead vocals on numbers like "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight" and "Little Mountain Church House."

This year's show was dedicated to the memory of Louella Helmkamp, one of the festival team's founding organizers who served as committee secretary and coordinated pie sales. Helmkamp died the past year. Her daughter, Linda Hammons, and son, Sam Helmkamp, appeared on stage with festival organizer Al Brumley Jr. for a tribute. Brumley also offered a tip of the hat to Vedas Davis, who had the original idea for the annual music event.

Brumley, who announced he was planning to retire from performing soon, offered a set of songs to showcase the work of his father, gospel music titan Albert E. Brumley. He opened with the 1937 song "Turn Your Radio On," playing along on guitar with additional accompaniment by award winning guitarist and songwriter Dwayne Friend.

Dewayne Bowman and four members of his band, Swingin' West, took the stage at 7:30 p.m. With a big infectious laugh, Bowman launched his group with "Remington Ride," written by Bob Wills' steel guitar player, Herbie Remington. The big sound of the five-member Western swing band was quickly apparent with Bowman on lead guitar, Johnny Henderson on steel guitary, Ernie Reid on electric fiddle, Gary Hill on rhythm guitar and Ronnie Bleacker on drums.

Brumley closed the show by returning to the stage and leading the festival's traditional ending, a sing-along version of "I'll Fly Away."

Donations raised $1,200, in addition to concession sales. Proceeds will be used on maintenance and improvements on the grounds of the historic Kings Prairie school. The festival began as an effort to develop the site into an active community center. Over the years, a well has been dug for new bathrooms. The next step will be to erect a building for the bathrooms.

Donations of materials and labor are now being sought for the project. Construction could begin as early as this fall with additional pledges of support. Anyone interested in helping is asked to contact Larry Hyde at 235-7860.

Supporting this year's event were: Al and Robannell Brumley; the performers; Malcolm Mosby and his team of sound technicians; The Monett Times; the Monett Rural Fire Association providing assistance with parking; Weiser Tent for providing the stage; Wickman Gardens for the stage decorations; Tyson Foods for the ice; Buchanan Funeral Home for the chairs; Wolf Pack Port-A-Pottys; and the volunteers who provided support and assistance in the concession sales.

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