As a blogger, I may be compensated in some way (either pay, product, or experience) for sharing the post below All opinions are my own. ~Heidi
If you were born in 1970 or before, then you probably remember watching The Waltons. I am going to date myself here, but I was 2 1/2 years old when The Waltons made its television debut and I feel like I grew up watching it. I was an only child, but it was easy to imagine that I was a part of the large Walton’s family.
The Waltons was an American television series that ran for nine seasons from 1972 to 1981. It was based on the writing of Earl Hamner about his depression-era family who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It was good, clean, wholesome entertainment – something that we don’t really have nowadays. Because of that, years ago we purchased the full set of DVD’s and have watched them with our children over the years. So, Ashley, while she wasn’t born until 1993, also feels like she grew up on (and with) the Walton family.
The Waltons 45th Anniversary
Several months ago, Ashley and I saw some Facebook posts regarding upcoming 45th Anniversary activities that would be taking place in Schuyler, VA to celebrate not only the 45th anniversary of the show but the 1 year anniversary of Earl Hamner’s passing. Both of us thought it sounded like fun, but didn’t really think we could make it work to attend. We kept it in the back of our minds, though, as it was my birthday weekend and sounded like something fun to do.
Once we knew the tickets were going on sale, we got serious. Ashley messaged me that if we wanted to go, we better not delay. And she was right. We bought our tickets right away on the morning they went on sale – tickets sold out within an hour or so! Those tickets were a hot commodity, which means that there are a lot of people out there who love the Waltons and wanted to participate. And, we were lucky enough to be ticketholders!
Finally, March 24th was fast approaching and we headed to Virginia. (We made a pit stop on the way, which I’ll share in a future post.)
Concert & Barn Dance
Our first Waltons event was a concert on Friday night at The Walton’s Mountain Museum. I’m glad this was a ticketed event as the museum isn’t all that large. It was so neat to see so many members of the cast just mingling with the crowd and watching the concert. We were first treated to a concert by the Little Mountain Boys. I had never heard them before, but they are local guys who have been playing together for a long time. I loved their music with the banjo, mandolin, guitars, bass, and dobro – sounded like music my grandpa used to play.
Next, we heard from pianist Paul Cardall who has done some work for the Earl Hamner – Storyteller documentary among many other credits to his name. Paul’s music was beautiful and very moving – gave me chills and almost brought me to tears.
Whoever thought that Mary Ellen Walton could sing? Well, she can! And quite well. Judy Norton wowed us with her musical stylings. I had to tape her version of a song from Broadway’s Wicked because my daughter Gracie is a huge fan of the musical.
And, on the way out, Mary McDonough (who played Erin) stopped us and asked me to share my video (above) on her Facebook page. Needless to say, I was feeling a little starstruck.
Meeting the Cast
After not nearly enough sleep at our hotel in Charlottesville, we headed right back to the Museum where we had tickets to the Meet & Greet with the Cast. We got in line to buy our selfie vouchers (for the 6 Walton children who were there – all but John Boy), Mama, and Cindy (Ben’s wife). We literally waited over 4 1/2 hours for our turn to meet them. We were getting tired, hungry, and a little bit grouchy! But, once it was our turn, we were just so happy to meet them, say “hi,” and pose for some awkward photos.
When we left, there was a HUGE, LONG line of people who had General Admission tickets who were waiting to meet the cast. We honestly felt sorry for them. We waited long enough – they would have been waiting all day and my hopes weren’t too high that all of them would get through the line. I don’t think this portion of the festivities was handled properly – I can think of many ways that the process could have been more efficiently streamlined. But, they didn’t ask for my help, so I can’t complain too much!
Banquet Dinner Honoring Earl Hamner
We were so hungry after getting the autographs that we headed for Chili’s and had a nice (late) lunch there. Afterward, we went back to our hotel room and took a nap. I felt sorry for the cast members, knowing that they would be tired as well and were pretty much stuck there all day.
Later in the evening, we got dressed up and headed to the Doubletree Hotel for a banquet dinner. Unfortunately, we ended up standing around as the banquet didn’t get started ’til an hour after it was scheduled to start. Lots of people were complaining about the organization (or lack thereof), not to mention tired and achy feet, etc.
Thankfully, this was another ticketed event. We bought regular tickets to this, as the VIP tickets were double the price. The VIP tickets got guests a seat at a table with one of the cast members of The Waltons. Lucky for us, though, we got seated with Tami Bula (Marcia Woolery) even though we didn’t pay extra for it! Marcia was a real “brat” – one of those characters that you love to hate on TV. In real life, though, Tami was the exact opposite. We enjoyed dining with her and learning more about her and what she’s been doing with her life since the show. I feel like we made a new friend.
Sunday Morning Events
We really wanted to go back to the Museum on Sunday morning. They were having a tree planting ceremony in honor of Earl, along with a music concert by Jimmy Fortune (former member of the Statler Brothers). I just love Jimmy because i grew up listening to the Statlers and he inspired me to sing high harmony. I was really looking forward to seeing him. But, because this was an “open to the public” event, we didn’t have high hopes. Parking wasn’t great at the museum, even for the ticketed events. We were afraid the event would be backed and we wouldn’t enjoy it.
So, we decided to sleep in a bit and head for home. (We did make a detour on the way home and had some fun along the way.) But, I wish we had been able to enjoy the Sunday morning events too.
We enjoyed the weekend. It’s always fun to get away and spend time together. But, I’d like to go back to the area when it’s not so crowded so that we can tour Earl Hamner’s birthplace (that’s it in the background of the photo at the top of this post), tour the museum more extensively (without having to fight the crowds), and check out some of the other attractions in the area.