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Local musicians to share stage with Skaggs

By Molly Haines

Friday night, the five young members of the Downtown County Band will have the opportunity to share the stage with one of the biggest known acts in bluegrass music – Ricky Skaggs.

The local group, which consists of Wes Petzinger, Dave Hawkins, Sam McWilliams, John Atha and Keith  Clifton, will be the opening act for Skaggs as he takes the stage during the outdoor concert series at Elk Creek Winery.

 The Downtown County Band has shared the stage with other big names. It once opened for bluegrass musician Sam Bush.

Petzinger said the current lineup has been performing for exactly one year, but other variations of the group have been going for two years.

“It’s flattering that someone considers what we do entertaining enough to do something like this,” Petzinger said.

He knew that eventually the band would achieve opening for such a big-name artist, Petzinger said.

“I’ve always been very optimistic,” Petzinger said. “I set my goals pretty high.”

McWilliams, who is the youngest member of the group at 19, said he hopes the group will gain new fans by performing for such a large act.

“The experience itself is going to be a lot of fun,” McWilliams said. “I’m hoping that maybe we will attract a new audience and our name will get out there a little more. Mainly, I’m just proud to be opening for Ricky Skaggs.”

Bass player Atha said with this opportunity he hopes to make his family proud.

“I had a brother who passed away several years ago and he never had the chance to do anything like this,” Atha said. “It means a lot to me to do something like this because I know he’d be proud of me and I want to make the rest of my family proud.”

Atha said he hopes the concert draws a good audience.

“I would encourage people to come out for this to support a local band trying to make a name for themselves,” Atha said. “I definitely think we’re original and you aren’t going to hear too many other bands that sound like us.”

Clifton, a native of Owen County who has been a member of the group since its formation, said he is excited to see a big name such as Skaggs coming to preform in Owen County.

“I never imagined I’d be able to do something like this,” Clifton said. “What’s so neat about this is that it’s happening in Owen County.”

For him, opening up for Skaggs is a dream come true, Clifton said.

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do being able to get up there and play and open up for one of the greats,” Clifton said.

Hawkins, who has been with the group for one year, said he was shocked when he learned he and his fellow band members would be opening for Skaggs.

“It kind of caught me off guard,” Hawkins said. “I always hoped it would happen but I wasn’t expecting something like this to happen this soon.”

Hawkins said he grew up a fan of bluegrass and Skaggs.

“My dream has always been to play music full-time,” Hawkins said. “ I think this is  huge step in that direction. I grew up a fan of Ricky Skaggs and it’s just a huge honor.”

To purchase tickets for the show, visit www.elkcreekvineyards.com. Gates will open at 5 p.m. The Downtown County Band will open the show at 6 p.m. followed by Ricky Skaggs at 7:30 p.m.