Springtime Jamboree to benefit Dagsboro fire company

Date Published: 
April 4, 2014

Calling all lovers of country, Western and gospel music: It’s almost time for the 32nd annual Springtime Jamboree.

Created more than three decades ago by now-state-Sen. Gerald Hocker to benefit the Lower Sussex Little League, the annual musical event has helped raise thousands of dollars for area nonprofits.

“It started when I was playing Minor League ball at the Pyle Center. At that time there was only one field for Little League and one field for Senior League,” explained Gerald “Gerry” Hocker Jr. “At that time, the Lower Sussex Little League did not have a whole lot of money to put into the fields. The State of Delaware, they would take the snow fence down and take it to the Pyle Center and make the ball field fence out of it.

“My father began to brainstorm ideas that would raise money for the Little League,” he continued. “He went to them and said, ‘If I were to organize a country music show and named you as a beneficiary, would you be interested?’ They were delighted. Nobody knew at that time what would transpire.”

The elder Hocker contacted his friend Floyd Magee Sr., who had been organizing the Country Hoedown in Georgetown, for help.

“Floyd’s reply was, ‘Let’s get it done,’” said Hocker. “Floyd emceed the show and helped my father organize it.”

In that year, Hocker said, the jamboree raised around $5,000, and to date it has raised more than a half-million dollars, all of which has gone each year to the benefitting nonprofit.

“Now the jamborees raise right around $30,000… It’s come a long way,” he said. “Dad always says, ‘As long as the locals continue to enjoy going and continue to support it, he would continue to go do it. And it has been going on for 32 years. In the 32 years, we’ve raised well over $500,000 going back into this immediate area. It has all gone toward very good nonprofit organizations.”

The 2014 Springtime Jamboree will be held at Indian River High School on Friday and Saturday, April 11 and 12, at 7 p.m., with preshow entertainment beginning at 6:30 p.m., featuring pianist Ron Howard.

In their 32 years, the jamborees have supported numerous area fire companies, Delaware Hospice, area Lions Clubs, Pop Warner football, River Soccer Club and more.

This year, the jamboree’s beneficiary is the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Company, as chosen by Sen. Hocker.

“My father likes to choose the beneficiaries,” said Gerry Hocker. “In this economy, every nonprofit organization is in need of funds. He looks at what nonprofit group may have been doing something substantial throughout the previous year and may be in need of funds.

“He saw Dagsboro was building their new fire hall. In the previous years, they had never been named as a beneficiary.”

Hocker said the beneficiary is in charge of selling ads in the jamboree’s program and will sell concessions at the show.

Tickets for the jamboree may be purchased in advance, at any of Hocker’s three locations for $13, or at the door for $14.

During the musical event, the Jamboree Boys — comprising Gerald Hocker on bass, Gerry Hocker on steel guitar, Greg Hocker on drums, Reggie Helm on rhythm guitar, fill-in lead player Bill Ulmer and lead singer Jimmy Holston — will once again perform.

“Usually around mid-January I reach out to Jimmy and ask him what songs he’s liking at the moment and anticipates singing,” explained Hocker. “Usually he has a few in mind… We do our best to pick a good mix of songs.”

The Jamboree Boys will perform numerous songs, including Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel,” George Strait’s “Cowboy Rides Away” and Luke Bryan’s “Play It Again.”

Additionally, Cheryl and Ron Howard, Mike Evans, Danita Robinson, Wade Hocker, Gerry Hocker, Stephanie Wilkinson, Floyd Megee Jr., Charlie Lynch, Jaime Parker, Billy Curry, Linda Magarelli accompanied by Monte Wisbrock on saxophone, Tyler Bare, Miss Delaware Rebecca Jackson, Rebecca Wilson, the Reminders and the Hap Tones will perform.

The evening will be emceed by George Keen, and the Hap Tones will be the house band. Those who attend will not only be able to enjoy a night full of music, but also some laughs, with comedy skits performed by Scott Evans.

“Without these people, the show would not be possible,” said Hocker of the performers. “Hats off to every single person who has a commitment to the jamboree. Every single person who has to do the show is equally as important — from the emcee to the comedy.”

A highlight of the show every year is when Beth Ann (Hocker) Cayhall performs. Currently, Cayhall is living in Nashville, Tenn., where she’s working as a professional musician.

“I’m looking forward to seeing her,” said Hocker of having his sister come home for the jamboree. “I must say, I was impressed with the two new songs she has that she’s hoping to do in the show.”

The two new songs Cayhall plans on performing are ones that she wrote this year.

“That’s a little exciting for me, because I was fortunate to hear two of her brand-new songs before anyone had heard them, and I’ll be fortunate to play,” he said. “I was impressed with the two new songs that she has. She hasn’t recorded them yet for a final.”

Not only will Cayhall perform her own material, but she’ll perform with Hocker, as well.

“The same thing always seems to happen… She texted me the song she was thinking about, and it was the same song I was thinking about,” he said. “This year we’re going to do a song, a new song we’ve never sung before, by George Jones, called ‘Golden Ring.’

Hocker said his family’s love for music goes back generations — to his grandfather Wilbert, Uncle Jake, Uncle Clayton and Aunt Bessie — and has been passed down to all family members.

“Certainly music is my most favorite pastime,” said Hocker, who plays bothguitar and steel guitar. “I’ve enjoyed that my whole entire life. It’s something I’ve never gotten away from.”

Hocker started playing guitar at 9 but was determined to also learn steel guitar, which his grandfather Wilbert played.

“My grandfather played steel guitar, and he always wanted to teach me. Due to health reasons, he was unable to do so,” said Hocker. “I knew at that point there would be a day I’d learn to play.”

Hocker said he has passed on his love of music to his own children who are 5 and 8 years old, and plans to teach them both guitar and steel guitar.

“Both of them have asked me to teach them guitar. So they each have their little guitars. Every once in a while, I’ll sit down with them and show them a few little things,” he said. “You have to understand what you’re going to get from an 8-year-old and 5-year-old, but to them it’s music to their ears, and we enjoy those moments.”

Hocker said that, over the years, the jamboree has continued to grow in popularity, with 1,200 to 1,500 people attending between the two days.

The jamboree is just one of many ways the Hocker family has stayed active in giving back to the community over the years.

“It’s certainly important for us to see the community that we’ve lived in our whole lives to continue to prosper,” he said. “We have always done everything we can to help all the nonprofit organizations. It’s a lot of those nonprofit organizations that are the people who support our stores. We’re a family business. We’ve been in the community for a number of years. We were catering to the community before any national chain came into the community.”

He added that the Hocker family feels it’s their way of giving back to the community that has continued to support them, even after big chain stores moved into the area.

“We always give back to the nonprofit groups who have supported our stores and our family. A lot of those people realize when they come into our stores, that money all stays local. We employ a great deal of employees, all of which are local within this immediate community,” he said.

“You don’t forget the people who help us, because without them we wouldn’t be here. It’s important to see, no matter what nonprofit group is in need, we’ve always done our best to reach out and help them.”

Every year, Hocker said, they hope to see new faces at the jamboree and that the community will continue to support the area’s worthy nonprofits through a fun night of song.

“We always hope to get new people. We hope to see the repeats and get some new faces. Each year we’d like to say we’ve had a record year. It’s not about our family — it’s about the community. We hope the community will continue to support it and come out,” he said. “And we hope to give the people who bought the tickets their money’s worth. That’s our goal — for people to leave there knowing they got their money’s worth.”

To purchase tickets in advance, visit Hocker’s Super Center and Hocker’s Grocery & Deli, located at 34960 Atlantic Avenue in Clarksville, (302) 537-1788 or (302) 539-0505, or G&E, located at 30244 Cedar Neck Road in Ocean View, (302) 539-9662. Indian River High School is located at 29772 Armory Road in Dagsboro.