Jessie Veeder: Medora concert a return to where it all started

I stood under a yellow and white tent along the boarded walkway of that town we all know nestled between the tall, rugged buttes of the Badlands and along the muddy river in western North Dakota.

1299687+Veeder Jessie.jpg

I stood under a yellow and white tent along the boarded walkway of that town we all know nestled between the tall, rugged buttes of the Badlands and along the muddy river in western North Dakota.

I had just started learning to play guitar, plucking away at "Amarillo by Morning" on the floor of my bedroom night after night, and I was likely nervous about trying out my shaky new skills in public. I was 12 or so behind that microphone and beside my dad, and I probably sang a Garth Brooks song on my own, and then along with the chorus in "Ghost Riders in the Sky." "Red River Valley" would have come next, and then maybe, after I settled into myself, facing a small crowd that had gathered on picnic tables, racing the melt on their ice cream cones or spreading ketchup on hamburgers wrapped in paper, maybe I got the nerve up, because they were a friendly crowd, to play a song I wrote, the one where I wondered out loud if my horses talked when I was away.

And I got to hear some applause for my effort, just a ranch kid with a chance to sing and play her guitar for the first time in public to a crowd that summer afternoon because somewhere along the line someone had heard me, a friend of my parents who owned a shop in that tourist town, and she made a phone call or two.

You never know when it's all starting when it's actually starting.

But I know now for me it started in Medora.


Because when you're young and wondering what it might be like to be a real singer or an artist or a dancer, the best gift you can be given is a stage and some eyes to see you and some ears to listen so that you might find your voice.

I'm thinking about this today as the weather turns warmer and I gear up for the release of my fourth album, I can't help but lament at the timing. Almost 20 years after I sang my first original song on the boardwalk outside of the Chuckwagon Café, I will be helping the Medora Musical celebrate 50 years of entertainment under the big beautiful sky by opening up the musical on that very stage with a concert of my own.

And I am honored. Because there hasn't been a kid in those seats, watching the summer sky turn from blue to gold to black dotted with stars, who hasn't been inspired by the Medora Musical's vision throughout the years. I was one of them.

To be the cowboy riding down the trail under the spotlight, or the girl singing her heart out, or the acrobat defying gravity during the break in the show, or the soldiers they honored with a hand on the heart and a patriotic song at the close of the night, we all found something to take home with us when the last song was sung and our parents carried us sleepy and full of wonder back up to the top of that canyon and to our tents, campers or hotel rooms in town.

Fifty years of entertaining families with simple storytelling, showmanship and a firework or two, night after night until the weather cools down and the days get shorter is a big accomplishment, not just in the execution, but in the longevity of the mission to celebrate our heritage, our landscape and the music that moves us.

A lot has changed in this world since the first lights were lit and the first note was hit on that amphitheater stage 50 years ago. And a lot has changed for me since this little town between the buttes and along the river gave me a microphone and a nudge in the direction of my dreams when I was just a kid.

And I'm so happy and proud to be chosen as one performer among others who likely have their own connection to this magical stage, to help celebrate the start of it all in Medora.

I hope you can come celebrate with me July 18! Get your tickets today at .

What To Read Next
Get Local