Gone Country V: A Salute to the Grand Ole OpryWORTHINGTON — Ask any of the “Gone Country V” performers what is their favorite part of participating in the show, and the same answer is heard time and time again.
WORTHINGTON — Ask any of the “Gone Country V” performers what is their favorite part of participating in the show, and the same answer is heard time and time again.
The camaraderie backstage.
The Friends of the Auditorium will present “Gone Country V: A Salute to the Grand Ole Opry” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Memorial Auditorium performing Arts Center. The show features regional performers recreating music from artists including Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Patsy Cline, George Strait and more.
Harold Van Der Sloot of Sibley, Iowa, has the honor of being the oldest performer in the show.
“I’m 72,” he admitted with a grin.
Van Der Sloot, a U.S. Army veteran, has been in the previous four “Gone Country” shows and is enjoying participating this time around.
“I like being back here with the people,” he stated, motioning to the others gathered backstage.
He has performed for a long time, playing in a variety of bands in the past 35 to 40 years.
“Me and one other person play gospel music at church,” he said. “I like to stay busy, and I plan to keep coming back here until they tell me I can’t.”
Van Der Sloot will perform two songs: a Conway Twitty tune and one by Marty Robbins.
On the other side of the age coin is 19-year-old Stephanie Winters of Ocheyedan, Iowa. A student at Southwest Minnesota State University, she is currently studying photography and hopes to one day take wedding photos.
This is Winters’ second year performing in “Gone Country,” having portrayed Minnie Pearl in the last “Corn Off the Cob” production. She performed in high school musicals and would love to have a career singing, but knows it is a tough business to break into.
“But I do love performing,” she admitted. “I like country music, classic rock — pretty much everything.”
Of this years’ show, Winters said the older country songs will please a crowd.
“It is a good time to both watch and perform,” she stated.
Her musical selections for the show include “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”
Eldon Larson of Fulda will perform Marty Robbins’ “Singing the Blues,” and he is planning a tribute to the men and women in uniform to Merle Haggard’s “Fightin’ Side of Me.”
Larson encouraged anyone who loves music, especially old country tunes, to attend the show.
“The people in the show are the best; the band is awesome,” he said.
Being part of the group backstage and jamming a bit between performances is what has kept Larson coming back for five years of “Gone Country.”
Bruce Dysthe’s performance will be his third with “Gone Country.” He plans to sing Jim Reeves’ “He’ll Have to Go” and “Dance with You” by George Strait.
Dysthe, of Beaver Creek, considers the show a “good chance for us old has-beens to perform,” he admitted with a chuckle.
“There are not a lot of places where we can go do our thing,” he added.
The performers are top-notch, he said, and many people in the local communities are unaware of the talent these people possess.
Judy Johnson of Worthington is of the same opinion, and she has been coming back to perform for four years. Her son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Ashley Johnson of Windom, have been in three shows.
“It is such a fun atmosphere,” Judy said. “There is a lot of camaraderie, tons of encouragement, and we always have a great audience.”
Watching the younger talent step forward and shine is a part of coming back year after year that she enjoys.
“It is wonderful to see how they grow and change,” she stated.
In the past few years, the selection of music has been a bit more eclectic, but this year, it is traditional classic country from start to finish, Judy explained. She will perform “One Day at a Time” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”
With the band Sideline, featuring Bill Shoup as musical director, Ken Clark on the drums and Cindy Anderson on keyboards, along with guest bass player Jim Stainer, the show promises to be a rollicking good time for country music enthusiasts and music lovers in general.
Tickets can be purchased in advance by contacting the Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center at (507) 376-9101. Tickets can be purchased at the door subject to availability.