Becky Johnson, aka Mrs. Bluegrass, was able to attend the funeral this past weekend of well known bluegrass and country music personality Hazel Smith, who had passed away on March 19 at 83 years of age.
Hazel Smith, born in Caswell County, NC, was laid to rest on Saturday, March 24 ,2018 at the Camp Springs United Methodist Church. I live only 40 minutes away in Caldwell, so I got onto NC 119, where there were more deserted tobacco barns and pack houses then there were people. Only a very few farmers grow and prime tobacco in this part of the state anymore. Soybeans and corn are the replacement crops.
The skies darkened as I drove to my destination off Cherry Grove Road. When I arrived in the church parking lot, there was a lively Easter Egg Hunt in progress. “Oh, the funeral has been pushed back to 4:00 p.m.,” I heard, and the time was then 1:30. So I drove down the street and walked into the Camp Springs Store. The very same store where Carlton Haney and Miss Hazel Smith first met, back in the 1960s.
This was where Carlton asked about property in the vicinity where he could hold his annual Original Bluegrass Festival. “Sure! I have some land for sale!” said Hazel. Brother Charles Haney purchased the approximately 55 acre tract. The tobacco smoke inside the store was so thick, it looked like haze. After finding bottled water and a bag of pickle flavored potato chips, I went up to the counter. “You know Carlton Haney?” I asked. On the counter was a giant orange round of hoop cheese.
The elderly lady behind the counter turned and said, “Yeah, I knew Carlton Haney. He sure had quite the happening there at BlueGrass Park…too bad he screwed it up.”
“Are you kin to Carlton?”
“No, we were close friends in bluegrass.”
“How would you feel having Camp Springs revived again?”
“Oh yes!” she exclaimed. “Back in the day, Camp Springs was a big deal around here”
I made my goodbyes, and went to visit BlueGrass Park. A holy spot, where the Original Bluegrass Festival used to call home. I walked down to the pond, and watched the rain change to big wet snowflakes. The pond was full, and shore birds squawked as I made my way down the old dirt road, past Kathaleen’s Kitchen, up to the old wash house.
It was time to head back to Camp Springs Church. A large crowd gathered in the Church, and the pastor welcomed everyone. When the service was done, we made our way to the graveside. The snow/sleet was coming down, so it was brief. A sea of umbrellas crowded around the tent, and there, beside the silver handled white coffin was a beautiful, hand painted, airbrush tombstone of a musical staff, with notes floating on air, next to her smiling face.
We had refreshments back inside the community center. A frosted chocolate cupcake and a Coke were just what I needed to get back home. We all hugged goodbye, and I headed back in the snow.
Rest in Peace Hazel Boone Smith. You will never be forgotten.
The Camp Springs Music Foundation is a 501-(c)(3) organization, and we are looking for a buyer for the approximately 53 acre tract in Caswell County which is known as BlueGrass Park. It is here that the Original Bluegrass Festival took root after searching for a permanent place, hosted by Reidsville native, Carlton Haney. We want to lease a 20 acre tract from the owner, and bring back Carlton Haney’s Original Bluegrass Festival to BlueGrass Park Labor Day Weekend, 2019.
For more information, please visit our website at campspringsmusicfoundation.org