Editor’s Note: Due to weather, the location for the Rhoda Vincent concert has been changed from Mattie’s Tavern to the Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church, located at 1825 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang.


By Raiza Giorgi


An idea for a small fundraiser for the Meals on Wheels program at the Buellton Senior Center has grown into a huge event involving many community members and even a few celebrities.

“I love how this community has stepped up to help. I have been getting many phone calls from people wanting to either donate something or help at the event,” said Pam Gnekow, executive director of the Santa Ynez Valley Senior Citizens Foundation at the Buellton Senior Center.

Through connections with local celebrity Bernie Taupin and his wife Heather, the organizers coordinated efforts to bring “Queen of Bluegrass” Rhonda Vincent and her band, The Rage, to perform on Feb. 28 at Mattei’s Tavern.

Vincent said she is very much looking forward to performing because she gets to visit friends while helping to raise money for the community.

“We have performed in the area a couple times before, so we are thrilled to visit again,” Vincent said.

“This event has been in the making for more than a year, as we lost critical funding when the Thomas Fire and Montecito mudslide disaster hit. Funding sources were rightfully diverted, but our seniors are also very deserving of the programs and support,” Gnekow said.

Pam Gnekow is the executive director of the Buellton Senior Center, which was founded to promote the common good and general welfare of the senior citizens and other residents of the Santa Ynez Valley.

She noted that the senior center serves 133 seniors a day with its lunch program, which includes meals served at the senior center and through Meals on Wheels, where volunteers bring home-bound seniors food and other necessities.

“I am excited to announce we are also partnering with Golden Inn and Village to be doing their meal program as well, which will increase the amount of food we need,” Gnekow said.

Besides the meal program, the senior center hosts a free farmers market every Monday. Seniors and low-income families can take food that has been donated by Trader Joe’s in Santa Barbara.

“We have a deal with Casa Esperanza that we bring them food as well, and then we bring about 2,200 pounds of food ranging from meats, cheeses, produce, vegetables and more,” she said.

Gnekow said a homeless single mom with two kids recently came to the senior center asking for resources, and Gnekow and her staff helped coordinate to find housing for them.

“We try to help anyone that comes to us for assistance. Luckily we have an amazing partnership with United Way of Santa Barbara County to help as well,” Gnekow said.

Vincent comes from a long line of musicians and became wildly popular after winning “You Can Be a Star” on The Nashville Network in 1985. She has been named Female Vocalist of the Year many times by the International Bluegrass Music Association, and Entertainer of the Year several times by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America.

She and her band are also Grammy award winners.

Volunteers Finn Runge and Nik Fernandez help to sort goods for the free farm-ers market for local seniors and low-income families that is held every Monday at the Buellton Senior Center.

“Bluegrass music brings an extraordinary authenticity and a very high skill level. It’s not for everyone, but I’m thrilled (that) even those who aren’t the normal bluegrass fan usually appreciate the skill of each musician and our brand of bluegrass,” Vincent said.

She has performed at the Grand Ole Opry and recalled her first time on that stage.

“I was shaking. My legs felt like rubber, just like you see on cartoons.  It is an honor to perform on that stage,” she added.

Her look is unique in that genre of music as she typically wears ballgowns and high heels when playing her mandolin, which she says is a great instrument for petite women.

“It also sounds beautiful,” she said.

Vincent said playing music is a constant part of her life and she’s inspired every day. Her daughter is also now part of the show, writing songs and learning the business.

The fundraiser will be opened by local sheriff’s deputy Charlie Urhig with his band The Thunderbirds, and people can also get line dancing lessons.

Local food legend Arne Hansen will be making his famous aebleskiver, and Chick-fil-A has donated mini sliders. God’s Country Provisions are also donating doughnuts and Pony Espresso is donating a coffee bar.

“There is so much positivity surrounding this event and I can’t wait until the show starts. Rhonda is just delightful and I am sure everyone will have an amazing time,” Gnekow said.

Tickets are $65 for general admission, with admission at 6 p.m., or $125 for VIP with admission at 5 p.m. Tables of eight cost $1,000. To learn more or to buy tickets, log onto www.buelltonseniorcenter.org and click on “Upcoming Events,” or call 805-688-4571.