Junker’s Mill has flaws, but shows worth attending

Published 9:31 am Thursday, October 11, 2018

What’s the deal with Junker’s Mill?

The outdoor theater in Downtown Mocksville has been there for quite a few years now, and it’s hosted some incredible shows – Mike Cross, Junior Brown, The Tams and scores of others. The Marshall Tucker Band even played there a few years back, thanks to local promoter Mike Gunning.

But there always seems to be a lack of people.

Sure, shows like Marshall Tucker and some of the beach music bands brought out plenty of rock and rollers and shaggers. But attendance at most events is spotty.

It was especially evident at the first Mill Fest a couple of weeks ago. A full day of music with local, regional and national acts drew only a handful of spectators. The $10 admission was more than reasonable. Maybe attendance was low because it had to be postponed for a couple of weeks because of Hurricane Florence. Maybe attendance was low because folks just had other things to do. Maybe it’s Junker’s Mill itself.

The venue was a great idea. A natural amphitheater setting with plenty of nearby parking. Downtown is right there.

But there are some downfalls to Junker’s Mill that may make it difficult to become the venue the town had hoped.

No. 1 is asphalt. It’s everywhere. Mike Cross, when announcing one of his songs, actually said: “Welcome to Mocksville Asphalt University.” The asphalt is good for a parking lot, which the area is when there’s not a show going on. The asphalt soaks up the sun, and the heat. It can get hot – really hot.

No. 2 is the restroom situation. Portable potties. Nobody likes to go in one of those, especially when it is really hot, and even more so when not installed on level ground.

No. 3 is the stage area. The stage is all there is for performers. Most are used to having a room backstage, or a place away from it all to tune up and warm up. There’s no such thing at Junker’s Mill. No green room here. Performers have to mingle with the crowd just to make it to the stage.

No. 4 is Junker’s Mill itself. It looks like the building is about to fall in. The building is owned by EnergyUnited, and the town leases the stage area for shows. If the town is truly interested in hosting quality performances, it needs to purchase the area and make the needed improvements, or build a new venue. I think moving the shows to a temporary stage on Depot Street, East or West, would help attendance. There’s something about a concert on the street that is appealing. At a parking lot, not so much.

I could put a No. 5 onto the Junker’s Mill problem. The people. Even with its flaws, the shows at Junker’s Mill are worth seeing. Tami Langdon and the Town of Mocksville go out of their way to bring us some quality entertainment for free, and it isn’t cheap. They have to pay the bands, the sound crew, police officers. They have to round up volunteers to help when needed. And then we don’t show up. The Mill Fest was one of the few shows that charge admission. Most are free, and most of the music is top notch. Most of the shows are on Saturday afternoons or evenings, so we don’t have good excuses to not at least try to see a show.

Yes, Junker’s Mill has its flaws. But for now, it’s ours. Go see a show.

There’s a perfect opportunity this weekend, and you get an arts and crafts festival at the same time. The Oaks Festival is Saturday on the square, and beginning at 12:30 at Junker’s Mill, there will be free music. The Mystery Hillbillies will wow you with their unique sound at 12:30. Nu Blu will play bluegrass with an edge to it at 2:50. Acoustic Syndicate will bring their fine musicians to the stage at 5:15. It’s a band you don’t want to miss.

So bring a chair and stay a while. Enjoy the music. Have a beverage. Visit with friends. Make new friends. The weather this weekend is supposed to be cooler on Saturday. Finally, fall-like weather is here. Enjoy it at The Oaks Festival. Enjoy it at Junker’s Mill.

– Mike Barnhardt