By Tim McCoy
The artificial fog swirled around the stage and into the assembled crowd, as Matt Hankins, assistant town manager and CEO of the Harvester Performance Center took the podium to deliver his welcome address. Within his opening remarks, was the salient point, “The Harvester sold some $1.2 million in ticket sales in 2016, and we are pleased to say we’ve turned a small profit.” But the true value of the Harvester to the town of Rocky Mount and our region cannot be measured in just dollars and cents. The Harvester is a transformative heartbeat, steadily pumping creative possibilities and joy into the town.
Hankins took to the task of outlining the economic impact that the performance center has had on the town of Rocky Mount. Those numbers included the restaurant meals sold, tax revenues from meal sales, and the estimate that some $2.25 are spent in local businesses for every dollar spent at the Harvester. Then, Hankins reviewed the numerous awards Rocky Mount has won in the last few years, most recently the 2016 Community Economic Development Award (CEDA). Towards the end of his address, Hankins recognized the other businesses that make the town thrive, and ended his comments noting that the town would like to attract both a microbrewery and distillery, to further the reputation as a place to stay for a visit, not just come for a show.
After a review of the state of the business, Hankins handed the podium off to General Manager Gary Jackson to discuss the heart of the Harvester: Music. Jacksons words were filled with deep gratitude about the opportunity the Harvester has afforded him to “live this love of live music.” As Jackson reviewed the upcoming 2017 line-up, it became clear that the region, along with Jackson, will be able to “live that love” throughout the year.
To review the Harvester’s current 2017 line-up is to repeatedly be surprised at the depth of talent, and the height of star power, that will take the stage at the 450-seat listening room. Steve Earle, the Wood Brothers, Keller Williams, and the Victor Wooten Trio, are just four of the acts that will bring stellar musicianship to audiences in the first quarter of the year. Then acts like Kris Kristofferson, Emmy Lou Harris, and the Bare Naked Ladies, will give audiences an up close and personal experience of performers who routinely play to thousands rather than hundreds. Interspersed among the internationally known performers, will be events of a decidedly more local appeal, including a night of local music called VA Made, featuring Rutledge, Corey Hunley and the Millionaires, and Low Low Chariot.
It is clear that 2017 is going to be another year in which the Harvester, and Rocky Mount, continue to surprise audiences, and surpass all expectations. Please take a few minutes to peruse the Harvester events site, revel in the knowledge that so much talent will be on display just up the road from Roanoke, and then, buy some tickets!
We’ll see you out there! The Blue Ridge, does indeed, ROCK!