Frieda Harlow saved community music in Ridgeway, North Carolina. She wouldn’t tell you that, but she invested in a crumbling music hall and insured the continuation of a community institution. Harlow grew up in the original opry house, singing and playing music. The Ridgeway Opry was a vital part of her childhood, and wanted to insure it supported another generation.
Harlow’s friends and neighbors come together to form the bands, they take up donations, they even brew coffee and prepare food, to insure the shows go on. And since she reopened in 2003, she’s never missed a Saturday night. “I try to make everyone feel at home,” Mrs. Harlow says.
Musicians are encouraged to take the stage and the audience does their job to support the talent. And in a community like Ridgeway, investments are more than money. It’s the people who come, the musicians who play, and the stage that supports this unique community institution.
Produced by Joseph O’Connell, with Evan Hatch and Joy Salyers.
Underwritten by Resourceful Communities and the North Carolina Folklife Institute.
Interview and performance recordings at Ridgeway Opry House by Mike Taylor (NC Folk, 2009)