Concord Charlie Sees His Shadow
Athens, W.Va. – Concord University hosted the 30th annual Groundhog Day celebration with a breakfast and concert of old time mountain music with nearly 120 in attendance.
An invocation was presented by Rev. Greg Godwin, and those present were treated to a hearty breakfast of eggs, ham, grits, biscuits and gravy, fried apples and more. Dr. Joe Manzo presented a letter from Concord Charlie, the school’s furry mascot for this special day. Apparently, Charlie had received some help from Sharon Manzo and Tom Bone in writing his letter. According to Charlie, “Every year, Dr. Beasley asks me if I’ve seen my shadow, and I say, ‘Dr. Beasley, have you seen your shadow?’ . . . The best bet to see your shadow is to book a flight south.”
After the letter-reading, the audience enjoyed a comic video cartoon, “The Legend of Concord Charlie” presented by Tom Bone. The cartoon depicted Dr. Beasley with Charlie and was set to music by Richard Strauss.
Dr. Beasley then gave “Charlie’s Prognostication” – did Concord Charlie see his shadow, predicting a longer winter? According to Dr. Beasley, the groundhog did see his shadow this sunny morning. “Although we will have six more weeks of winter, winters are not as bad as they used to be, and I’m sure that will make many of you glad,” Dr. Beasley commented.
Dr. Beasley explained the tradition of groundhog-watching. For the past 23 years, it has been his job to consult Charlie about the winter weather, but now that Dr. Beasley is retiring, Charlie will be meeting with the next university president. “You may wonder what I will tell my successor about Charlie. Of course, I’ll first tell where Charlie can be found,” Dr. Beasley said. “Charlie is wherever in the chill of February mountain folk come together to cheer one another, and hope for a brighter, warmer, and better day. Charlie can be found in circles of storytellers whose yarns capture immeasurable truths of the heart. Charlie can be found in strains of music that sail over hills and echo in concrete city canyons and call rambling boys home.”
Charlie was in fact found this morning in the same strains of music that Dr. Beasley mentioned. Mr. Everett Lilly, renowned bluegrass musician, was named the Grand Groundhog Watcher. Dr. Beasley commented, “The Annual Grand Groundhog Watcher should always be someone who has made life more interesting, and Everett Lilly has made life more colorful and interesting in West Virginia.”
Furthermore, Dr. Beasley praised Lilly, “Everett Lilly has reversed the direction of missionary work that has come into our state by taking the soul of what we are here in the mountains to the Hillbilly Ranch in Boston. For many who heard his music, it was a slice of heaven. He and his brothers played and taught them the essence of what we are all about. This lodge was home in the city for sailors and soldiers who had roots in the mountains but were uprooted for a spell and found a slice of who they were in that place.”
With 14 recorded albums, a 2002 induction to the Bluegrass Hall of Honor, and an invitation to play at the Grand Ole Opry with Bluegrass legends Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, Everett Lilly has taken his love of folk music around the world, even as far as Japan. Lilly spoke honestly of his music: “With music-playing, it’s a joy when you’re playing, but there are a lot of hardships in it. Sometimes we drive all day and night to get where we’re going.”
Lilly and his band, “The Lilly Mountaineers,” serenaded the audience at the Groundhog Day breakfast. Members included his two sons, Mark and Daniel Lilly, on acoustic and bass guitars respectively. Everett, who has played stringed instruments since the age of six, played mandolin at the performance. Chance McCoy, most recent member of the group and 2007 West Virginia State Fiddle Champion, completed the band on fiddle. Dr. Joe Manzo announced that one member of the band, Rod Lewis, banjo-player, couldn’t make the performance, to which Daniel Lilly replied with a joking tone, “We’re not all here.”
The band had quite the stage presence with their joking, singing, dancing, and foot-tapping. Songs included the fiddle-burning “Old Joe Clark,” old-time gospel song “Get in Line, Brother,” “Dance All Night,” “Over Yonder’s Hill,” and “Sally Goodwin.”
PHOTO: Dr. Joe Manzo
PHOTO: Mr. Tom Bone
PHOTO: A “JPEG still” from the Concord Charlie video shown at this morning’s breakfast. The animated cartoon “The Legend of Concord Charlie” runs 1 minute, 45 seconds and is set to a classical music composition by Richard Strauss that was used as the main theme of the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The image depicts Charlie being dazzled by a sunrise on February 2 — but all is not lost, thanks to an unorthodox intervention by Concord President Jerry Beasley. The cartoon was created by Tom Bone III, an editorial cartoonist and sportswriter for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, and William Bailey, a videographer at Concord University.
PHOTO: Dr. Jerry Beasley
PHOTO: Mr. Everett Lilly and Dr. Jerry Beasley
PHOTO: Mr. Everett Lilly
PHOTO: Mr. Everett Lilly
PHOTO: Everett Lilly & The Lilly Mountaineers—pictured are (from left) Chance McCoy playing fiddle, Mark Lilly playing acoustic guitar, Everett Lilly playing mandolin, and Daniel Lilly playing base guitar
Corrie McKee a senior majoring in English and journalism wrote this news release. Her hometown is Nitro, W.Va.