The Oldfield Opry at one of their weekly performances in May 2015. After nearly three decades, the group is like a family. “I’ve been sitting by Steve for 25 years – that’s longer than most marriages,” says Opry Vocalist Kerre Thompson (third from left).
It’s Saturday night, and the routine is always the same: The lights dim, the crowd hushes and an emcee greets the audience. Then a stage full of musicians begins to play. These talented Ozarkers – on banjo, guitar, bass and harmonica – prove their chops as they launch into their opening number, a familiar tune that draws claps and toe taps from their listeners.
No, this isn’t the scene from a Branson theater or even a concert in the “big city” of Springfield. Instead, it’s just another night at the Oldfield Opry. And it’s been that way since 1977.
“It’s a fun place to be,” says Barbara Brown, an attendee who says she’s hardly missed a show in 10 years. “It’s great entertainment. They always manage to put on a good show.”
In the beginning, the opry was merely an informal jam session. Four musicians – Steve Beyers, Bill Gardner, Hank Thompson and Johnny Walker – met in what used to be a store on the main street of Oldfield to play. Back then, there wasn’t any audience to speak of. It was just a group of friends looking to have a good time.
But their tunes, quite literally, soon spread. “People would drive by, hear the music and come in and sit,” says Eddie Goins, the show’s emcee and bass player. It wasn’t long before the group’s weekly performances were commandeering a full house.
I like coming here better than Branson,” says Mona. “(The musicians) enjoy what they’re doing. They’re so talented. It’s such an enjoyable, down-home type show.”
Max and Mona Decker remember those times. “Back in the day, you had to stand up if you didn’t come hours before,” says Mona. Today, the husband and wife are just two of the opry’s dedicated audience members, making the drive from Ava nearly every single Saturday. “I like coming here better than Branson,” says Mona. “(The musicians) enjoy what they’re doing. They’re so talented. It’s such an enjoyable, down-home type show.”