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Dinniman Unveils Historical Marker for Sunset Park
PENN (August 12, 2018) – State Senator Andy Dinniman and Penn Township officials unveiled an official historical marker at the former site of Sunset Park, a famed country and bluegrass music venue.
The park, located in Jennersville, was founded by G. Roy “Uncle Roy” Waltman in 1940 and over the next 55 years hosted some of country music’s most popular acts, including Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Tex Ritter, Patsy Cline, the Carter Family, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Hank Williams, Jr.
Over time, the park also became a mecca for bluegrass lovers, hosting icons Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs, Reno & Smiley, Mac Wiseman, Jimmy Martin, the Stoneman Family, Bill Clifton, and other greats. In addition, Bluegrass icon Ola Bella Reed was a member of the Sunset Park house band, the North Carolina Ridge Runners, that played there for more than 20 years.
Lawrence Waltman Jr. and wife, Hazel, took over the business when Waltman Sr. passed away in 1957.
“Sunset Park is a great Chester County story and a great American story. It’s one of a farmer and entrepreneur who had the vision to create a venue of such size, scope, and popularity that it became one of the premier places for country and bluegrass musicians to play outside of Nashville,” Dinniman said. “Lawrence Waltman, his son, and the Waltman family worked to make that vision a reality and in doing so, greatly influenced the cultural and musical landscape of the region.”
The marker, located at the intersection of Waltman Lane and South Jennersville Road (PA Highway 796), close to the site of the former entrance to Sunset Park was approved by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) earlier this year.
It reads: One of the premier music venues outside of Nashville, the park featured many of the biggest stars of country and bluegrass. Operated by the Waltman family from 1940 to 1995, it supported the transition from pre-WWII “hillbilly music” to the nationally popular country music genre. Featured artists included Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Randy Travis, and Bill Monroe. Live unreleased recordings of major performers have been preserved.
Today, the site of former Sunset Park is home to a shopping center, but its contributions and that of the Waltman family to country and bluegrass music will never be forgotten, said Dinniman, who serves on the PHMC.
Penn Township officials also officially proclaimed Sunday “Sunset Park Day,” as part of the kickoff celebration for the township’s 200th birthday in 2019.