The Junior Opry is back

Talent showcase returns to Stage4 Jan. 3

Story by Chris Graham

Bob Campbell wanted to bring his Virginia Junior Opry back to the Staunton area. Jeff McDaniel wanted it back, too, because he knew a Staunton-based Opry show could pull from a wide base of local talent.

“And here we are,” said Campbell, who with McDaniel, a ShenanArts veteran who connected with Campbell at a Virginia Junior Opry show in Clifton Forge earlier this year, is putting on a Junior Opry performance on Sunday, Jan. 3, at Stage4 Theatre in Verona.

Campbell has moved the Opry back and forth between the Staunton area and the Clifton Forge area for the past 10 years. Campbell, a member of the popular local act The Coachmen, has wanted to find a home in the Staunton-Augusta area for the show modeled on the Grand Old Opry since getting the series going.

“The talent base here is just unbelievable,” said Campbell, whose issues with locating a regular home for Opry shows has had to do with the availability of affordable venues.

Enter McDaniel and ShenanArts, which is using the Jan. 3 Junior Opry as a fundraiser for its relocation fund. “We have the space, and we have the talent,” said McDaniel, who first made contact with Campbell while helping a local tween talent, Emily Henline, find gigs and landing her a slot on a Junior Opry show in Clifton Forge.

That led to McDaniel taking other ShenanArts talents to Opry shows, and the rest is history.

“The kids who were coming down didn’t mind making the trip, but I thought we could get a lot more if we could bring it up here,” McDaniel said.

Henline will be one of the nearly three dozen young performers on the bill for the show this weekend. “It’s an honor. I’m very excited. I can’t wait to be there singing my songs,” said Henline, 12, who got her start in performing arts two years ago in a ShenanArts production of Children’s Letters to God.

Also on the show will be ShenanArts and Junior Opry veteran Andrea Saunders. The 20-year-old who grew up in front of our eyes said it will be “very humbling” to be back on the stage with her friends from the local performing-arts community.

“I was there when I was 12 years old. Seeing the kids now who are 12, 13, they’re amazing. And it’s neat to see everybody growing up, the kids, the people I’ve worked with over the years at ShenanArts,” said Saunders, who is now in college and the National Guard.

ShenanArts and the Junior Opry “were my family. If anything was going badly at home or school, it didn’t matter. I could do what I wanted to do on stage,” Saunders said. “Looking back now, it kept me out of so much trouble. That’s why it’s important to keep it going. It’s an alcohol-free, drug-free, safe environment.”

That to Campbell is what the effort that he and people like McDaniel put in is all about.

“That’s a big part of it – to give kids something to do, to get them off the streets. People here complain about the kids having nothing positive to do. This is an attempt to give them something,” Campbell said.


The Virginia Junior Opry
Sunday, Jan. 3, 3 p.m.
WHERE: Stage4 Theatre, Verona
INFO: Virginia Junior Opry on Facebook 


augusta free press

uva basketball team of destiny

Team of Destiny: Inside UVA Basketball's improbable run

Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.

The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.


Augusta Free Press content is available for free, as it has been since 2002, save for a disastrous one-month experiment at putting some content behind a pay wall back in 2009. (We won’t ever try that again. Almost killed us!) That said, it’s free to read, but it still costs us money to produce. The site is updated several times a day, every day, 365 days a year, 366 days on the leap year. (Stuff still happens on Christmas Day, is what we’re saying there.) AFP does well in drawing advertisers, but who couldn’t use an additional source of revenue? From time to time, readers ask us how they can support us, and we usually say, keep reading. Now we’re saying, you can drop us a few bucks, if you’re so inclined.


augusta free press
augusta free press news