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Country Stars at the"Hillybilly Park"
By Hillary Delaney
Located about five miles west of Walton, Verona Lake Ranch was a large, outdoor, music venue opened by Bill and Edna Scroggins. The entrance to the property was located between the school and the Verona Bank, on Route 16. Scroggins, who was a banjo-player, hosted “hillbilly” shows at the ranch on Sundays in the summertime, beginning in the early 1950s.
In 1955, the property was purchased by Kenton County native, Thurston Moore. Moore was well-connected in the Bluegrass and Country Western music industry, and was well-known for his work in radio, music promotion and publication. Moore's wife, Georgie, took the role of emcee for the shows, and it was clear right away that she was a natural entertainer. She quickly became as much of a draw as the headliners she introduced. One of her popular dance acts included a hula, complete with grass skirt, a favorite among the local farmers who became Georgie's groupies.
The big draw were the stage shows, scheduled on Sunday afternoons during the warmer months. On the other six days of the week, there was plenty of free, family-friendly recreation to be had. The property was nearly 100 acres, and featured 3 lakes for fishing, a large picnic area (with grills,) a concession stand, and a playground. On warm, sunny days, local families could pack a picnic and make a day of it!
The Sunday concerts were a smashing success. Moore's connections brought national acts including: Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers, Flatt and Scruggs, Ernest Tubb, Kitty Wells and Johnny Cash. In fact, nearly all of the headliners were either Grand Ole Opry members or had been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Many weekends, small-town Verona was flooded with thousands of fans, some of whom drove many miles to see their favorite stars. Some of the statistics for the first season under the Moores' ownership are an indication of the popularity of Verona Lake Ranch. Attendance was tallied at 25,390 adults (children were not counted) and the concession stand sold: 4,000 boxes of popcorn, 6,000 snow cones, 6,020 hot dogs, 4,110 hamburgers, washed down with 39,216 soft drinks. Because it was intended to cater to families, alcohol was prohibited on the ranch.
Though clearly prosperous, Verona Lake Ranch was only in operation a few years. Due to other projects in the music business, Moore made the difficult decision to close the business at the end of the 1959 season. The stage still stands, but the era of top-billing Country and Western music in Boone County ended with the closure of our “hillbilly park,” Verona Lake Ranch.