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'Make or break year' for Trail Band event

Auction breathes new life into holiday tradition in Forest Grove


Photo Credit: COURTESY PHOTO - The Trail Band was formed by Marv Ross in 1991 at the request of the Oregon Trail Council to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the trail.Jeane Canon started going to the annual Trail Band concert with her husband, Eric, before they were married 17 years ago. “For me, it marks the beginning of the Christmas season,” said the longtime Forest Grove resident. “It’s great music.”

Eric Canon agrees.

“When it comes to accomplished and versatile musicians, they don’t get any better than the Trail Band,” he said.

But dwindling turnout for the “Christmas With the Trail Band” concert the past few years had threatened the holiday staple, said Heather Rhoade, development coordinator for the Education Foundation of Forest Grove, the nonprofit the concert supports.

“Honestly, it’s a make or break year for the event,” Rhoade said. “We love having the Trail Band and hope to continue on with the tradition.”

To boost interest and increase ticket sales, Rhoade and her group added a silent auction to the mix this year. Patrons of the event will be able to bid on items — ranging from quilts to baskets featuring wine, Avon products and Scentsy candles — during intermission. Winning bidders will be able to pick up their auction items after the show.

There will also be lobby entertainment by a trio from Forest Grove High School.

“With more advertising and promotional effort, we are optimistic that we will be continuing on each year presenting the fantastic Trail Band performance for the Christmas season,” Rhoade said.

The silent auction, she added, will be “something fresh and new to add to the experience of attending the performance.” Rhoade is collaborating with local businesses to “get their [goods] or services out there to the public” — and, in turn, she hopes proprietors will “show their support of our effort to provide quality educational assistance for our area schools by donating an auction item or service.”

This year, the annual tradition features Portland singer Andy Stokes, adding some soul-stirring music to the concert. Stokes has performed with Portland icons Curtis Salgado, the late Linda Hornbuckle and New Shooz and nationally with Michael Bolton, George Clinton, Connie Stevens, the Temptations and the Stylistics.

He’ll perform with the rest of the band the evening of the concert.

According to promotional materials, the Trail Band is “an eight-piece ensemble that creates an energetic blend of brass and string arrangements of traditional and original music featuring five vocalists, including Quarterflash’s Rindy Ross.

“Hundreds of public and private appearances across America and Japan, plus seven successful albums, have established The Trail Band as the premiere historic music ensemble from the Northwest. Cornet, tenor horn, tuba, fiddles, hammer dulcimer, guitars, penny whistle, mandolin, piano, saxophone, spoons, bones, drums, bass, and recorders combine with [singers’] rich vocal harmonies to create a diverse tapestry of sound.”

Formed by Marv Ross in 1991 at the request of the Oregon Trail Council to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the trail, the band initially performed music exclusively from and about the era of the Oregon Trail with costumes, diary readings, traditional folk tunes, marches, hoedowns and Native American melodies.

Titled “Voices From The Oregon Trail,” that performance has been the center of the of the band’s repertoire for more than 10 years.

With a reinvigorated Trail Band event in store this fall, Forest Grove School District Superintendent Yvonne Curtis will have another chance to see and hear a local perennial favorite.

While her family doesn’t make it every year, Curtis said, they’ve gone frequently. “It’s become a family tradition,” she said. “We have two sons; one plays the violin and one plays the guitar. The music is inspirational to all of us.

“And we usually walk out with a new CD,” she added.

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