Everyone knows that our bluegrass community is a close knit affair, and that’s certainly true in southwestern Virginia as well as anywhere else. That goes a long way towards explaining how Zacrye Porter, a rising senior at Tunstall High School in Pittsylvania County, ended up taking Junior Sisk’s bus to his prom this year.
Of course Zacrye had an inside connection to make this happen. His grandfather is Allen Mills, famous in bluegrass circles for his many years leading Lost and Found. Junior has been taking his bus to Allen for maintenance for quite some time, as has Sammy Shelor with Lonesome River Band and anyone else with a tour bus ’round these parts. And his mom, Melody, has grown up around bluegrass since she was an infant, and knows Junior as a family friend.
Bluegrass is a huge part of both the Mills and Porter families, with Allen having met his wife, Deb, at the Bass Mountain Festival in North Carolina, lo those many years ago. Melody remembers going to shows with her dad throughout her childhood, and had Zacrye at festivals by the time he was five. As a youngster, Allen used to invite his grandson on stage while Lost and Found was performing, and he also accompanied his grandpa on trips with Lonesome River Band when Allen would help drive on long trips.
Now Tunstsall had cancelled their prom this year, as had most schools all over the country, while COVID restrictions were still in effect. But also like many others across the US, Tunstall parents got together to host a prom for the students on their own, wholly unaffiliated with the school. The families booked the Sutherlin Barn in nearby Sutherlin, VA, a large enough venue to accommodate a dance, and pulled out all the stops. Students and their dates walked a red carper with velour ropes into the building, and a professional photographer and a videographer were on hand.
Between the time that the parent-sponsored prom was announced and the event itself, Melody had the idea to see if they could borrow the bus from Junior, and have Johnathon Dillon serve as their driver for the prom. They all loved the idea, and Johnathon even wore a chauffeur’s outfit that evening. So while everyone was pulling up to the entrance on May 15, here comes Junior’s big Prevost bus, and Zacrye and his date, Kaylee Moser, a rising junior at Chatham High School, decamped and went inside.
Melody told us that the rules said “no limousines,” but they didn’t say anything about tour buses!
Zacrye tells us that the impact was just as you would expect.
“Everybody was amazed at how we were able to pull it off. Then I explained to them about my grandfather’s background, and they understood.
I wasn’t real big into going – maybe going for an hour and then leaving. But I ended up enjoying myself and had a great time. I encourage everyone to go to your prom if you can.
Since it was a parent thing, we didn’t have to wear masks. I got to see people I hadn’t seen in a while, and since we didn’t have in-person school this year, I got to meet people I had never seen before for real.”
Johnathon stayed in the bus for the whole time, and drove the couple back home after the dance. That is surely a night they will never forget.
Talking with Melody, she wondered why no one ever took her to prom on a bus. But back when she was in school, her dad’s bus would have been out with Lost and Found, wherever they were working.
Special thanks to Melody Porter for pulling together these photos from Zacrye and Kaylee’s big night. And hats off to Junior and Johnathon for making it happen.