Judy Havelick and Larry and Melissa Schmidt are RavensFire, appearing during Western Days in the City Park bandshell.
Judy Havelick and Larry and Melissa Schmidt are RavensFire, appearing during Western Days in the City Park bandshell.

Melissa, Larry, Judy and Brad-as-Elvis, are settin’ the bandshell on fire.

“RavensFire Band plays a pretty nice selection of music for all ages to enjoy. We do favorite old American folk songs, world folk, lively Irish tunes, even a few ‘golden oldies’ thrown in for a hoot, and some neat original pieces as well. Since each of us takes a turn singing, there’s a lot of different stuff going on,” said rural Spring Valley resident Melissa Schmidt.

She added that she, a mandolinist and whistle player, her husband and guitarist Larry and their friend and bodhran player Judy Havelick just might have what it takes to spark the musical interest of folk of all ages listening to them play at the Chatfield City Park bandshell on Sunday afternoon, during this year’s Western Days celebration.

RavensFire is a newcomer to the Western Days bandshell, but the Schmidts are well-known area musicians who just happened to meet Judy, the right person to keep the beat.

Melissa explained, “Starting with a long, solid history of performing, this little band has evolved into something really cool! We play for fun. We sing for fun. We love just being together, and the audiences are happy to feel this. Larry’s strong guitar playing is the foundation of the rhythm, with Judy’s mellow drumbeats filling in round my mandolin and whistle skipping around on the tunes. Each of our voices blend so well in vocal harmonies that the chorus parts are smooth and seamless.”

The RavensFire website shared that the band has traveled around the region and the world. “RavensFire has played dozens of local venues and festivals all around the area through the years, including the main stages at festivals in Milwaukee, St. Paul, Emmetsburg, La Crosse and Rochester, and recorded in Nashville, Las Vegas and Dublin, Ireland. The busy calendar for 2016 included performances at many concerts, festivals, theatre productions, public and private events. They have toured several times in Ireland, sharing their music with delighted audiences all along the way.”

It continued, “With all three voices blending in harmony, the RavensFire Band sings new life into the old familiar Irish tunes. Audiences everywhere clap furiously along with the RavensFire Band’s version of the popular old song ‘Whisky in the Jar,’ and chime in proudly on the original patriotic piece, ‘Hurrah for the Heroes.’ Melissa’s many original songs have won awards and blend skillfully into the wonderful RavensFire collection of traditional Irish favorites. Some songs will raise a shout of laughter, others will bring a tear to your eye. The lively instrumental reels, jigs, polkas and waltzes will go straight to your feet, and no matter what your age, you can be sure there will be no dull moments listening, singing, tapping and dancing along with the magic music of RavensFire.”

Melissa commented on being invited to perform in the City Park bandshell for audiences that may have never heard them before or for people who are old friends.

“It’s so great to be in a beautiful town with such friendly folks,” she said. “Western Days is a very excellent, well-run celebration, and it’s an honor for us to be invited. The bandshell in Chatfield, for the number one thing, is wonderful. In these times of modern busy-ness, people can settle in and relax for a while, visit with friends, enjoy live music played by real musicians and recall memories of simpler times.”

She concluded, “When you come to a RavensFire performance, be ready to sing along, laugh, clap and dance to some of your favorite songs and music. Each person in the audience is important to us, and that’s what folk music is about…folks!”

Brad Boice as Elvis

Western Days wouldn’t be Western Days without a little “Viva, Las Vegas!” courtesy of Chatfield’s own Elvis tribute artist, Brad Boice. This year’s hip-shakin,’ hunka-hunka burnin’ love is going to set souls on fire right away at noon – no need to wait for the sun to come around.

Attendees are advised to arrive at City Park early and bring a seat, but not to expect front row – Boice’s beloved fan club, the Winona Stalkers, have likely already staked that out and gotten ready to hear him over and over again because they just can’t help falling in love with him.

Friday night jam

Also, Friday night promises some collaborative compositions in the bandshell as the annual Friday Night Jam takes place.

“This is Bandtown U.S.A.! There will be a musical at Potter Auditorium. There should be something musical going on for those people coming to the musical, those who are going on another night and those who just want to spend an hour listening to the music being provided for the occasion of Western Days,” related Chatfield Brass Band (CBB) member Steve Strange.

He is the organizer of the annual Western Days Friday Night Jam taking place in the band shell in City Park on Friday, Aug. 11. He invites anyone who has a musical inclination to join him and the CBB Jazz Combo at the band shell to groove out from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., promising that the reward for contributing will be generous applause from the audience.

Since the jam is meant to be impromptu, it draws a wide range of performances and people who share their talents.

“The nice thing about the Friday Night Jam is the audience is very cordial,” Strange said. “Musicians with limited performance experience have been very pleased with the welcome they received. As a result, we’ve had performers as young as five years and others as old as 85 years who have enjoyed the opportunity to play, and singing along is always acceptable, and dancing on the grass is particularly encouraged.”

The jam is happening, rain or shine, in the band shell. “We’re hoping for great weather, but the show will go on, come rain or shine. Carmen Narveson does lots of support work for the jam. Like many musical things in Chatfield, it wouldn’t happen without her,” he added.

More music all weekend

The full City Park bandshell music schedule includes the Bandtown Friday Night Jam from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 11, inviting vocalists and instrumentalists to perform or sit in with the Chatfield Brass Band Combo – Steve Strange has the details at 507-285-1511 or at bandtownjam@gmail.com.

Megan Kleven Perry will be performing on Saturday, Aug. 12, at 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Enjoy the Chatfield Brass Band immediately after the grand parade on Saturday and Casey and the Good Timers following the Chatfield Brass Band.

Attend the nondenominational church service slated for Sunday, Aug. 13, from 9 to 10 a.m., followed by the Whitewater Whirlers square dancers giving it a go from 10 to 11 a.m., Brad Boice as Elvis from noon to 2 p.m. and RavensFire taking the stage from 3 to 5 p.m. The day closes with Ray Sands and the Polka Dots from 6 to 8 p.m.

The music ends just in time for the fantastic fireworks finale in the sky over Mill Creek Park at 9:15 p.m., sponsored by the Chatfield ambulance crew, the Chatfield Fire Department Activities Association and the Chatfield Booster Club.