When the well-attended 1890's Day Jamboree kicked off on Memorial Day weekend, the front lawn of the Catoosa County Courthouse was full for a block, with spectators spilling out onto Nashville Street. The Bondservants, a gospel quartet from Chattanooga, played classic Southern gospel to a still but satisfied crowd of virtually all-white citizens over the age of 50.
Faint sounds of classic soul were occasionally heard during breaks. Two blocks down the street, Courtney Day and The Daily Grind were playing Marvin Gaye's version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" to a smaller, young crowd that didn't mind dancing along the side of the stage.
After doing a life U-turn seven years ago following a sporting accident and turning to music, Day believes the population centers of Ringgold, Fort Oglethorpe and Dalton are ready to experience the development of a "local music scene" in North Georgia that spreads from Chattanooga.
"What's going on down at Songbirds around the Choo-Choo in Chattanooga along with Riverbend and Nightfall is spilling over down here," said Day, who grew up in East Ridge and moved to Ringgold in 2004. "They are bringing in high-level local and regional acts and we are starting to get those same acts here."
In addition to managing and performing with The Daily Grind, Day books music acts five nights a week at the Farm to Fork venue off Highway 2A in Ringgold. She points to weekly summer concerts in Dalton and the Downtown Nights concert series in Ringgold as places where a variety of music is being offered.
This year's Ringgold series began last Saturday night with two hours of music from the 1950s and '60s, and will continue on the second Saturday of each month through September.
"The music scene here is growing," Day said.
Jamie Klementisz, Main Street program manager for the city of Ringgold, agrees.
"I think people are coming out more and more to hear different kinds of sounds," said Klementisz, who moved to Ringgold from Pennsylvania. "More people are moving here from other places and bringing their culture with them.
"There has always been a desire for more variety, but those people just went to Chattanooga. Now, they are hearing it here and are coming out here to hear it."
Day, a single parent to two boys, worked as a dental assistant for two years before a rollerblading accident did enough damage that she could not work. She had grown up listening to classic soul and blues music and decided to take her passion for music and earn a living onstage.
"The only problem was that I had terrible stage fright," said Day, who originally partnered with friend Ivan Wilson as a duet team. "The first gig we did was a huge party just outside of Riverbend. I was thinking, 'Oh, my goodness,' onstage as literally thousands of people were walking by me."
Day is a businesswoman first, not a performer.
"I had two boys and needed to make a paycheck every week. It's a job, not a hobby to me," she explained. "Obviously I enjoy it, but it's a job that comes with a lot of stress. I sat down and figured out how many gigs a week I had to do, and then made it happen. You can make $12 an hour, and that's not much for an hour, but if you work 40 hours you can make a living."
Over seven years, Day has brought together what she terms "the best group of musicians around." They include Wilson on rhythm guitar, David Turner on bass guitar, Dennis Brown on lead guitar, Josh Dodson on saxophone and drummer Jeffrey Lyons.
"I slowly built a magnificent core of musicians, and I am just proud of who is playing with me," she said. The key to making the business work is the 50 private dates the band does each year. "I would love to build a following, keep building [the Farm to Fork] venue, building my band and getting better.
"I've not tried to expand beyond this reason, but I think we can. I think we can book bigger events and do national festivals. I am an optimist, yes, but also a realist. I have to make a living for my boys and be happy in my own skin."
Email Davis Lundy at email@example.com