Donna Dean Stevens Entertainment: Artist. Musician.
Executive Producer of the Old Dominion Barn Dance and Jimmy Dean Music Festival
This remarkable lady is a musician, author, artist, and producer. And it is sheer good fortune that she also has a passion for history and education, making her an invaluable supporter of Henricus Historical Park. Donna Dean Stevens is the widow of country music legend Jimmy Dean and her commitment to country music benefits the Richmond area beyond measure. As the producer of the Old Dominion Barn Dance and the Jimmy Dean Music Festival, Donna dedicates her time to keeping traditional country music alive in Virginia. Additionally, she donates proceeds from her productions to help educate 30,000 school children every year. Now, that’s positively Richmond. Enjoy this special Henricus spotlight!
What inspired you to revive the Old Dominion Barn Dance and how many people are involved in the production?
The Barn Dance is a Richmond tradition that dates back to the 1940s, offering good, clean, traditional country music entertainment. It has been out of commission for more than two decades, and for many years it has been my dream to revive the legendary show. I believed there were still plenty of folks who would enjoy the kind of entertainment it was famous for. So following my late husband Jimmy Dean’s passing I decided to put forth my time, resources and energies into its revival. In 2014 I secured the trademark, built a team of advisers, and called a few friends who perform the brand of country and bluegrass music, dance and comedy I wanted to present, and we put together a quality show that’s played to full houses from the start. In keeping with the original Barn Dance format from the 40s and 50s, we also feature national talent and guest stars from Nashville. The entire show includes about 50 people in cast, crew and guests.
In an effort to celebrate the great Jimmy Dean and highlight the history of country music in Virginia, you are responsible for bringing the Jimmy Dean Music Festival to the Richmond area. What makes this event unique and how do you determine which musical talents will perform each year?
The Jimmy Dean Music Festival is a way for those of us who loved Jimmy to honor him and his contributions to the music industry, as well as raise funds to support our community’s needs. Our first show was especially exciting since we unveiled a larger than life-size bronze of Jimmy, sculpted by famed Richmonder Paul DiPasquale. I commissioned the bronze for Jimmy’s forthcoming museum in his hometown of Plainview, Texas, due for its grand opening this year. Grand old Opry star Bill Anderson, Jimmy’s best friend, was the perfect choice as our headliner. It was a sellout show that included Richmond favorites Brad Spivey and the Honky-Tonk Experience, vocalist Lynne Carnes and yours truly. Lynne and Brad and band will be joining us once again on April 3 along with Richmond’s rising country star Tony Jackson, yours truly, and more of Jimmy’s celebrity friends, the Oak Ridge Boys. They are sure to share the story of their history as Jimmy’s background vocal group prior to their rise to stardom.
On April 3rd, the Jimmy Dean Music Festival will welcome country music legends The Oak Ridge Boys to the Carpenter Theatre. The “Oaks” have one of most distinctive sounds in the music industry, what is your connection with these award-winning entertainers?
My association with the Oaks has been primarily through their longtime friendship with Jimmy.
Country music has deep roots in Virginia. How is the Richmond area responding to the revival of classic country music?
There is evidently still a huge audience in the Richmond area and beyond that is starved for traditional country music entertainment, evidenced by the ticket sales and full houses we’ve had at the Barn Dance and the Jimmy Dean Music Festival. We even have folks coming from Florida, Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee on a regular basis.
There are countless opportunities to support historical sites across Virginia. Why do you choose to spend your time, talents and resources to support Henricus Historical Park?
When I was growing up in the Richmond area and attending elementary school, each year our field trip would include a visit to Jamestown and Williamsburg. It was a huge ordeal and a time-consuming ride on a school bus, so when I was introduced to Henricus Historical Park and realized they offered a similar experience so close to Richmond, I wanted to help bring awareness of the park to the public. It really is a beautiful place to visit, highly educational and very convenient.
Henricus Historical Park would like to thank Ms. Dean-Stevens for her strong commitment to community and her continued support to help keep Virginia’s history alive and well! Connect with Donna on Facebook to keep up with upcoming performances. Be sure to learn more about the Old Dominion Barn Dance and get your tickets early for the next show.
Old Dominion Barn Dance 2016 Scheduled Performances
March 12 – Connie Smith
May 14 – Gene Watson
May 15 – Gene Watson
August 27 – Mel Tillis
November 12 – Bill Anderson
The Jimmy Dean Music Festival — April 3
Join Ms. Meade in supporting the Children’s Education Fund at Henricus Historical Park by supporting her productions that offer world-class entertainment.