Every Saturday night for the last 33 years on a quiet country road in Montpelier, VA, the peaceful sounds of chirping crickets give way to joyful music emanating from the most unlikely of places – a chicken house. The building was converted over 3 decades ago when musician Ray Pollard and his wife Mary were searching for a place for Ray’s gospel quartet to rehearse. From this humble beginning, an abandoned chicken house became the longest running weekly gospel sing in the nation where artists from all over Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Pennsylvania come to share their love of gospel and bluegrass music.
Once we realized the Gospel Chicken House existed, we knew we had to find out more. Not knowing quite what to expect, we thought we would arrive early (around 5:30PM) to take photos and check things out. We were quite surprised to find the lawn already filling with cars. It didn’t take long to realize that many people make this a weekly social event. Within minutes of our arrival, one of the “regulars” approached us as we examined the 10-foot chicken statue in the yard and confirmed the unasked question “It really is a chicken house” then chuckling he added, “but it doesn’t have any lice.” He then proceeded to explain the evening’s events and told us that we had better grab a seat early because the “place really packs up.”
As soon as we stepped inside we knew this was more than any old chicken house. The walls were lined with photos of the numerous acts that have taken center stage over the years. There was row after row of old-style wooden theater seats. Monitors were strategically placed in the back so the crowds would have a great view even from a distance. The chicken theme was repeated often all the way down to the chickens printed on the offering bucket that was passed around later in the evening.
We grabbed a slice of the best homemade pineapple coconut pie we have ever tasted from the diner in the back and took a seat. The evening kicked off a bit early when the Gospel Chicken House Band began playing. Within minutes the audience was clapping and singing along. The band left the stage several times during the performance to mingle with the audience. The musical parade was lead by a smiling, waving, hugging, Mary Pollard. It was impossible not to feel like part of the family. Just in case anyone was feeling left out, they had all the newcomers stand up and tell a cheering crowd who they were and where they were from. You may have come in a stranger but there was no way you were going home one.
Folks from all walks of life, dressed from very casual to their Sunday best proudly proclaimed their personal stories about the Chicken House. From a couple that actually met at the Chicken House to a man who proudly proclaimed that he had been coming since the place was heated by a potbellied stove, it was very apparent that this place was “home” to many people.
So if you are looking for a Saturday night full of high energy and joyful music, you definitely won’t run a “fowl” at the Gospel Chicken House. Here you will find a unique evening filled with genuine smiles, heart-felt faith and open arms guaranteed to lift your spirits.
Showtime: Saturday evenings beginning at 7:00PM
Admission: Free but donations/offering accepted
Location: 14709 Greenwood Church Road, Montpelier, VA 23192
Directions: From Ashland, VA take Rt. 54 West, approximately 8 miles to Scotchtown Rd. Turn left onto Scotchtown Rd and go 2 miles to Greenwood Church Rd. Turn left onto Greenwood Church Rd. The Gospel Chicken House is ½ mile on the Right.