News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Young Life: Diggity Dudes chill out in Culpeper
BY COLLETTE CAPRARA
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
The folks at Culpeper Renaissance host a spectrum of family-friendly events and activities throughout the year to ensure that the town’s historic district continues to thrive as a vibrant community and tourist destination. Their winter agenda includes two dynamic family concerts and a daylong carnival, and clearly measures up to that mission.
Culpeper’s “Wintertainment” concerts are dubbed “Snow Much Fun” and feature performers who have a longstanding and heartfelt commitment to provide musical fun that will engage both children and their parents.
This Saturday, the Diggity Dudes will take the stage at Culpeper’s historic Depot with a performance of rollicking, rambunctious rhythm that will have the crowds on their feet and dancing.
In fact, the seeds of the group took root five years ago when two lifelong buddies and new dads, Donny Atkins and Mike Hartsfield, decided to apply their musical talents to write songs for kids that would not grate on parents’ ears—or nerves.
“At the time, we had no intention of forming a band or making a record but were just writing for our kids with songs about things in their everyday life, such as brushing your teeth and cleaning your room, including one called ‘Don’t Bite Your Buddy,’” said Atkins (Diggity Donny).
When other musicians heard their first songs, they encouraged them to write more. Three other friends joined the group and, as their children became school-age, a bevy of prospective topics came home in their backpacks. One of these, “My Science Project,” became the title song for the Dudes’ critically acclaimed début album that was released in 2010.
Today, with high-energy numbers such as “The President’s Presidential Fitness Test,” the band plays over 100 shows a year and hosts an annual daylong Diggityfest that has attracted more than 4,000 participants.
“All our songs have two things in common,” said Atkins. “They all carry a message and they all have an element of humor, so kids will remember it.”
The following month, families will be treated to the talents of Peter McCory, the loveable, engaging one-man band whose CDs have won national awards. A lifelong musician, McCory discovered the irresistible draw of a children’s audience 15 years ago when he played guitar for a children’s health day at a local hospital.
“That day, I realized that that was the audience I had always been looking for,” he said. “I had already experimented with one-man band stuff, but the thing that kept pushing me along was the great response I got from kids.”
Today, audiences are mesmerized by the levers, pulleys and pedals McCory employs in a walking band that may include a harmonica, whistle, guitar and drums.
“My band is continually evolving; I am continually tweaking the gadgets I build to make it better,” he said. “I never play a song exactly the same twice. Sometimes I’ll play a harmonica during a break and other times I will yodel or play beat boxing with my guitar. I never have a set list. When I see where an audience is going, I’ll adjust the songs to meet their needs and the performance is custom-made for them.”
McCory’s music ranges from classic children’s songs to original pieces inspired by his young fans, and his one-man band has been widely popular in venues ranging from classrooms to nursing homes.
“It’s easy to see why,” he said. “Strip away everything else and we are all children at heart, and music is a threshold to that inner child. An 80-year-old will become a kid again if you put a tambourine in his hand!”
On Feb. 9, families are invited to join in the fun of Culpeper’s second annual Downtown Mardi Gras Carnival. Local businesses will feature entertainment, New Orleans-style cuisine and demonstrations by painters and potters while strolling performers and minstrels mingle with the crowds in the street. Youngsters can express their creativity at a variety of craft stations and enjoy mask-decorating at the Museum of Culpeper History and there will be Mardi Gras beads and masks for all who come.
“We’re happy to complement our yearlong family activities with these new winter events,” said special events coordinator Melissa Vesuna. “It’s a great way to get out of the house, explore downtown, and enjoy some award-winning entertainment.”
What: “Snow Much Fun” concerts
When: Diggity Dudes: Saturday, Feb. 2. Peter McCory: Saturday, March 2. Concerts will be held 5–6 p.m.
Where: The Depot, 109 Commerce St., Culpeper
Cost: $5 per person
Upcoming: Downtown Mardi Gras Carnival, Saturday, Feb. 9. A daylong celebration. The streets, restaurants, and shops of Culpeper and the Museum of Culpeper History, 803 South Main Street. Info: 540/825-4416; culpeperdowntown.com
Collette Caprara is a local writer and artist.