'Late Night Sing' rich in history
Tuesday, July 30, 2013 11:30 AM
In an era where most everyone has a cellphone and tablet computer, nothing's more nostalgic than sitting around a piano and singing along to an old song.
The A. J. Yates Memorial Late Night Sing, held every Wednesday night on Founders Square, is one of the Fair's oldest traditions.
Dr. Joe Jordan, a Fair Board member and coordinator of the Sing, said it started around the turn-of-the-century when one of the only forms of entertainment was sitting around a piano and singing.
"Many people would sit on the porch, play the piano and sing," he said. "They brought it down to the Fair and have kept it going since."
It was due to the efforts of A. J. Yates that the tradition has held up, he said.
"Yates organized it and got my mother Mildred and Margaret Hester to play," Jordan said.
Over the years the leadership was passed to Jordan and Jack Yates.
Jordan's organizes the Sing and Laura Bryan, Mildred's niece, plays the piano.
"Her advice to Laura was not to play the songs but bump them out," he said. "That way people will feel the beat."
The Sing, as it is known to attendees, starts at 1 a.m. on Thursday.
"The people that attend aren't sleepy though," said Jordan.
"Some show up because they didn't want to go to bed and others take a nap just so they can be awake for it."
The Sing is one of those traditions that gets passed down in families.
"As Fairs go by a new generation joins in," Jordan said.
Pat Thomasson is one of those. Her father, the late Hugh Thomasson, used to take her out for The Sing.
"It was a big deal because I got to stay up all night," she said with a laugh.
"I'd go with my dad and we'd sing 'Roll Out the Barrel' together."
Pat said here favorite song to sing was "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
"I like it because the group really gets into it," she said. "There's so many more though that Dad and I had a connection singing."
Pat Woodrick, 77, also has a connection to The Sing.
She started going when she was eight.
"I would go with my father and sing with the group," she said. "It was a small group back then. It's grown now to almost cover the whole stage."
A.J. later asked me to help as song leader but now my voice is gone, Woodrick said. Last year was my last as song leader.
"It's such a wonderful thing to hear songs like 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame,'" she said.
Woodrick said one of her favorite songs is a Fairgrounds original called "Quitcha."
She particularly likes to her the new generation singing along to "Quitcha."
"The kids love the older songs," she said. "It's a wonderful tradition and everyone can sing. You don't have to be good to enjoy it."