The long-running music revue Stars Over Texas Jamboree breaks a yearlong layoff Thursday with a different roof over its head, but the same desire to entertain.
COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions kept the jamboree from its performing home of the Lee Lockwood Library and Museum for much of 2020.
A hike in rental fees on its return, however, caused organizers to look for a new home base for the monthly show and the curtain rises Thursday night on what they found: the Waco Hippodrome.
While the founders who started the jamboree nearly 10 years ago are grateful for the support the library has given the jamboree over the years and understand the need for a fee increase, they’re looking forward to a restart in a new place, particularly one already known as an entertainment venue.
“We’re grateful the Turners (Hippodrome co-owners Shane and Cody Turner) and (Hippodrome marketing and communications director) Aaron Konzelman met us with open arms,” said Terry Roller, who with Jim Guest, Ralph Sparks and Johnnie Bradshaw is a Jamboree partner. “It’s like moving from a high school auditorium to a theater. This is a place people go for entertainment.”
Bradshaw, who shares general jamboree emcee duties with Roller, agreed. “The Lee Lockwood people were great to us, but the Hippodrome is designed for entertainment,” he said.
The change will move the traditional country/patriotic/Christian music revue from the library’s 350-seat auditorium to the larger Hippodrome, which presently seats some 200 people on its main floor and 150 more in the balcony.
That capacity will expand in August when tables are removed, said Bradshaw, who anticipated the revue’s music reach will broaden in the future as well to include local jazz, mariachi and classic rock artists.
The first show back has the jamboree reprising one of its most popular shows, its “Golden Oldies” one, which showcases traditional country and pop standards by such jamboree favorites as Brenda Cheek, Ken Elliott as Elvis, Royce Montgomery, saxophonist Greg Bashara, trumpeter J.R. Sanchez and the jamboree’s house band led by James Guest, a former member of Reba McEntire’s band and a Branson veteran musician.
Those attending the jamboree can buy alcoholic beverages at the Hippodrome although organizers will relocate the jamboree’s gospel shows to another place out of consideration for gospel fans uncomfortable with or unwilling to mix gospel music and alcohol. Jamboree partner Ralph Sparks said the next gospel show is planned for 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at Western Heights Baptist Church with another in the works for November.
Performers will find the Hippodrome’s stage narrower than that at the Lee Lockwood Library’s auditorium, but lighting and sound more in line with a traditional stage presentation. “The stage isn’t quite as deep, but what we’re looking forward to is the sound,” Roller said.
Jamboree leaders also took the opportunity to move the monthly show to the second Thursday of the month, avoiding scheduling conflicts sometimes encountered with the first week of the month and holiday weekends. The music venue also will have people available to escort jamboree fans from nearby parking to the theater to assuage any safety concerns. As for older fans worried about their mobility in navigating the balcony, Roller notes it’s only an elevator ride and no stairs involved for Row 18 seats in the balcony.
Floor seats for the Thursday night show have nearly sold out out and, thanks to the Hippodrome’s online ticketing, some fans have already bought tickets for the July show. “We knew people would be hungry for this,” Bradshaw said. “I think it’s Waco’s best entertainment value.”