Today, Loudoun County is known for its wealth of entertainment opportunities, active arts community and diverse cultural offerings. That wasn’t the community landscape in 1976, the year a group of volunteers formed the Bluemont Concert Series.
Over the ensuing decades, the organization has presented more than 9,640 cultural programs in area schools, nursing homes, special events and summer concerts—and, by its calculations, touched the lives of some 3.2 million families and visitors. Its Sunday night concerts on Leesburg’s courthouse grounds long played out on the biggest stage in Loudoun, attracting performers from around the world and large crowds that valued the social interaction and cultural experiences at a time when there were few such opportunities around. Each summer, John McCutcheon banged out magic on his hammer dulcimer and The Pan Masters did iton specially configured oil drums. Each Dec. 31, the group organized the county’s largest and most talent-filled New Year’s Eve party in downtown Leesburg—a tradition ripe for revival. It also played a key role in establishing and building the annual Martin Luther King Jr. I Have a Dream March. And there were hundreds of square dances and other activities that reached well beyond Loudoun’s boarders.
While many community leaders made essential contributions to the program, at the heart it was the Dunning family’s unwavering support of the folk arts and love of music that fueled it.
The decision, announced Tuesday, to disband the organization—while practical in today’s environment of increased entertainment offerings and declining public funding support to support its efforts—brings sadness.
But there is much for which Bluemont’s leaders and volunteers should be proud. They blazed the trail for many of the performance venues that are so popular around Loudoun today. There is more than one performer on the local music circuit who danced in front of the courthouse steps as a youth or who drew inspiration from one of the school performances made possible by the group.
The end of the Bluemont Concert Series is a loss of an important Loudoun institution, but its impact continues as a cornerstone of the community we now enjoy.