Maybe the single greatest sign of a return to normalcy happened last week at McAllen Mobile Park for the first “Opry” jam of the Winter Texan season.
Yet, the biggest sign was that the word that has dominated conversations around the world wasn't even mentioned. In fact, nothing about the year that was put on hold was heard.
That will stay that way too, at least for this article, because on this date, Friday, Nov. 5, everything seemed as it should.
Heard throughout this special moment and day was a lot of laughing, singing, clapping and feet moving to the beat. There was even a bit of yodeling. Some couples took to the dance floor as well during the jam, which highlighted band members with impressive resumes, and singers who have – and still could – entertain the masses. And that they did.
Jam host Elaine Nelson is a member of the National Traditional Country Music Hall of Fame. She's a singer and a songwriter who first entertained in the Valley in 2007 at the Chicken House Opry and later hosted the “Shindig Show” in Donna and the Rhinestone Opry in Mission.
Just like all first-time shows there were a few adjustments from the loudness of the speakers to which set of lights to keep on. Other than those minute details, the jam welcomed 35 jammers backed by an impressive house band. Among those included was the Rev. Jan Ekstedt, an extraordinary violinist and fiddler who was the Concert Master of the Seattle Symphony for 26 years and has performed and toured with stars such as John Denver, Glen Campbell, Rod Stewart, Johnny Mathis and more.
Nelson opened the show with a few remarks and the show just took off like it has for years at McAllen Mobile. She then sang “Coal Miner's Daughter” as the show kicked off like it never had missed a beat (or a year in this case).
Other songs that kept the near-capacity crowd entertained included “Country Roads Take Me Home,” “Welcome to My World,” “Another Log on the Fire,” and, of course, “Cowboy Sweetheart,” enhanced with a bit of yodeling.
Of course, what is a great jam without a bit of mix. This one had it as well with some old-time rock 'n roll thrown into the mix with “Shake, Rattle and Roll” as well as what Nelson called “a dynamite, toe-tappin fiddle tune.”
With the show being held in early November, there was also some recognition of Veterans, those with birthdays and anniversaries and a gospel sing-a-long of “One Day at a Time.”
The last community wide event at McAllen Mobile was a chili and cornbread cook-off, which seemed years and years ago. However, the return to normalcy with camaraderie, singing and dancing left everyone once again with a good taste in their mouths.
The McAllen Mobile Park Opry Jam is scheduled to run from 1 to 3 p.m. every Friday.