It’s the only place like it in northeast North Carolina. It’s known as The Onley Place and if you’re a fan of good music, grins and laughter and old time radio, this is the place you want to be Saturday night for their live performance of an old time Radio Show.
The Onley Place is the brainchild of Perquimans County native Steve Casper. In a red barn erected on his family’s property for the sole purpose of entertaining folks, Casper has spent the last 10 years doing just that.
“We get people from all over North Carolina, Virginia and even on the eastern shore of Maryland,” says Casper. “We have people come on a regular basis to the show.”
Casper’s shows are so popular that folks, he says, will even plan trips to see loved ones around his show dates.
This Saturday’s Radio Show is his Indian Summer show. It’s dinner catered by Topside Catering at 6 p.m. and then the show from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The red barn is a spacious venue with tables lined up and down the open floor, offering guests a chance to sit with one another and make new friends. The stage is set up like a radio show studio, complete with an “on-the-air” sign, only the show’s not broadcast.
When you attend a show at The Onley Place, you’ll get great music, radio skits and fictitious radio commercials with fictitious sponsors. The Bennetts Mill Biscuit Company is one such sponsor.
Casper and his crew will do radio commercial spots from these sponsors in between great musical sets. This Saturday features a band from Charlottesville, Va., Hot Twang.
They bill themselves as, “A smoking hot bluegrass, jazz and swing band, down home tunes,” according to Casper.
“It’s going to be a mixture of pop country, country, blues, jazz, folk mix of music,” he says.
Onley Place regulars Phil McMullen and Connie Townsend will also be a part of the show.
The next show on his bill will happen Oct. 27. It’s the return of The Onley Place’s Carolina Moon Classic Country Dinner Theater and will feature live classic country tunes made popular by the likes of Jim Reed or Eddie Arnold — and of course a steel guitar.
But perhaps one of the most popular shows held at The Onley Place is the Christmas Show. Billed as A Carolina Christmas, this show will happen three days, Dec. 7, 8 and 15 and if it sounds like a good time to you — and it is — then you’d do well to make reservations sooner rather than later because it’s tough to get a seat.
Again musicians from Charlottesville will come down to share in the musical spotlight. Only this time, says Casper, they’re a group of musicians that don’t necessarily make up a band, accept of course for this show where they’ll be known as the Bennetts Mill All Star Biscuit Band.
“Lots of Christmas music,” says Casper. “Connie Townsend, Jo White, Carolyn Lafleur, Gene Baker; we call it our radio acting company. We read off the script like a live radio broadcast.”
And then on Feb. 8 and 9 The Onley Place will return for its incredibly popular Valentine’s Show.
Casper grew up around fiddle and banjo players and cultivated a love for square dancing. Over the years he earned a reputation as a popular dance caller and knew one day that he would like to build his own dance hall on his property in Belvedere.
The red barn where the shows take place today evolved from that simple idea. On site, on the weekends, barn-raising events, pig pickings and Casper’s square dance followers gathered to create the red barn. After it was erected, he would hold a few shows for the folks who helped put it together and things began to take off from there.
Casper has likened his shows to popular radio show host Garrison Keller’s “Prairie Home Companion. He pulls together local and regional talent to great effect.
Tickets to his shows are $22.50 and that includes dinner. Reservations are required and while there are still tickets available for this Saturday’s show, it’s always advisable to get in as quickly as possible because there are only about 200 seats in the barn.
The Onley Place is located at 308 Craney Island Road in the Belvedere Township of Perquimans County — that’s the land of beautiful women in case you’re not in the know. Casper says folks will use their GPS device to find him but if you’re not up-to-date on your technology, ask for directions when you call 252-297-2347 to reserve your tickets.