Greenway Airfield to battle Alzheimer’s with music

Published 3:39 pm Friday, September 15, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The sounds of country music are set to fill the Suffolk air as the Greenway Airfield Fall Festival is set for Saturday, Sept. 23. Music lovers from all over can enjoy the festival located at 1591 Cherry Grove Rd from 1 to 7 p.m.

The festival will feature performances from Nashville Recording Artist Leah Seawright, Country Music Hall of Fame Drummer Mark Herndon from the country band Alabama, five-time Carolina Music Award Winner David Lee Jones, and local bands Cooltones, Gator Head, and the Luke Wilette Band. The event will also have food, games, vendors, and a raffle. Supporting the Alzheimer’s Association, donations will be at the entrance gate with $25 per person and $40 per couple. 

Jack Harris of Eagle Rock Promotions and Greenway Airfield Owners Charles “CA” Nuckles and Robert “Bennie” Speight each talked about the music event. Nuckles emphasized that the festival is a “family-oriented event.”

Email newsletter signup

“We aimed it toward the families with kids. We got things for the kids to do like we did last year,” Nuckles said. “Last year, we were testing the waters, and we did very well.”

Speight also said the festival’s primary goal is to raise funds and awareness and support those suffering from Alzheimer’s.

“All of the donations go toward the Alzheimer’s Association,” Sleight said. “That’s why we started it last year and that’s why we’re doing it again this year.”

Last year’s festival helped raise $12,000 for people living with Alzheimer’s. With the three men setting their sights on drawing 3,000 to 4,000 attendees, they hope to exceed that number.

“You never know when you have an event like this what you’re going to have,” Nuckles said. “Being on the donation side is how we do this. If you were selling tickets, then you would know what you got coming in the gate, but when you do the donations, you never know.”

On top of Nuckles and Sleight being pilots, both expressed that the festival was inspired to give back to those in need. Nuckles reflected on the “partnership” he and Sleight created to make the festival happen.

“We created this partnership … we talked about it and said, ‘Well, let’s do it,’ Nuckles said. “It was two pilots giving back.”

It’s a more personal venture for Sleight as he talked about how his mother suffers from the progressive disease. Likewise, he expresses how the performers at the event have also been affected.

“My mother has had Alzheimer’s for 10 years, and she’s bed stricken. She can’t walk, talk, feed herself, anything like that. I got a number of friends my age or two years older that have Alzheimer’s in the early stages,” Sleight said. “We have band members that are playing at this concert that are giving up their time for this event that also have loved ones who have Alzheimer’s. It’s just running rapid, so we’re just trying to contribute back …”

Sleight expressed the struggles that come from caring for a person living with Alzheimer’s and families and friends suffering. It wasn’t entirely in vain as this struggle allowed Sleight and Harris to meet due to the latter’s girlfriend being a caregiver for his mother.

“He came to the event last year, CA, and I did the first one. He was at the event and then talking with him through Shelby, we found out he was a promoter for country music, Nashville and everything else,” Sleight said. “He said, ‘We need to get together and continue this thing and make this thing grow,’ and so from there, that’s what we did.”

Harris talked about hopes to have the festival as a yearly Suffolk mainstay while also doing another festival supporting the Wounded Warriors project — the nonprofit organization supporting physically and mentally injured veterans. Likewise, he wanted to start conducting small events for locals to enjoy themselves on a Friday or Saturday night. 

“If things go well this year, we can build our own stage and have a permanent stage there and turn it into a small music park … and try to draw more to help to give back to the community,” Harris said.

Additionally, Nuckles expressed his hopes for attendees to realize how serious Alzheimer’s truly is.

“There’s a lot of support out there, there’s a lot of families as Bennie was saying that [have] loved ones that [have] it. Some of them not as bad as his mother, but I’ve had family members that’s had it and it’s a burden on everyone,” Nuckles said. You just have no idea one day the person knows your name and the next day, they ain’t got a clue who you are. They don’t even know how to eat. So we’re hoping that with this awareness, people will see this is something that is good so we’re putting money toward the research to try to help loved ones for other people, so that they don’t have to go through what some of us have gone through.”