This spring, the rescue squad is calling on local bluegrass bands to help raise the money needed to repair and purchase equipment.
Their "Bluegrass to the Rescue" concert is planned for 7 p.m., April 6, in the auditorium at Bluff City Elementary School. The school is also raising some money through ticket sales for the concert, which will feature several bluegrass bands from the Tri-Cities.
"I think this’ll be a great night of fun," said Jerry Malone, the rescue squad board member who’s organizing the event. "If you like bluegrass music, then you need to be there."
Malone, who served as fire chief in Bluff City for 12 years, said he’s helped put on fundraising concerts like this for community organizations before – but this is the first time one is being held for the rescue squad.
The rescue squad has served Bluff City and Piney Flats since the 1960s and is funded by a combination of donated funds and local government dollars.
"The first concert we did with the fire department was some time in the early 1980s," Malone said, "and we did it in Viking Hall on New Year’s Eve."
Concerts and other entertainment events have been held over the years to raise money for the fire department, library, United Fund and other community causes. If this concert for the rescue squad is a success, Malone said, more events like it may be planned.
One reason the rescue squad needs a little help this year is that the nearly all-volunteer agency is facing budget cuts. According to the rescue squad, the town of Bluff City has cut its funding by 60 percent and the Bluff City United Fund has rescinded its charter, meaning it will no longer be contributing to the rescue squad budget.
The rescue squad has also had some significant recent expenses – including an emergency $17,000 purchase to replace 25-year-old rescue tools that broke and the need to repair fire damage to their main rescue truck.
The bands scheduled to play at the April 6 show are the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band, Duty Free, Gospel Grass, Tennessee Skyline and special guest Daniel Salyer.
The ETSU Bluegrass Band is made up of seniors, graduate students and ETSU bluegrass program director Dan Boner. Duty Free is a local Tri-Cities band known for their tight harmony, and Gospel Grass is a longtime gospel performer from Bluff City.
Tennessee Skyline is a Kingsport-based bluegrass band featuring guitar player G.C. Matlock and banjo player Tommy Freeman. Daniel Salyer is a bluegrass singer-songwriter who calls Bluff City home.
A group of sponsors – Woodmen of the World, Pizza Plus, Pit Row Market, HVAC Inc., Interstate Awning and Sign and Bluff City Diner – are paying for the bands so that the money from ticket sales will go directly to the rescue squad.
Tickets are $10 per person and are available at Boyd’s Bicycle Shop in Bristol, Tenn.; local area Pizza Plus locations; and at the Bluff City Rescue Squad’s Tuesday Night Bluegrass Jam, which is held from 6 to 10 p.m. every Tuesday night at the rescue squad building on Main Street in Bluff City.