Pickle Town native coming home

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Scrolling through her cellphone one evening, Shelley Kelly came across a Facebook post that caught her attention.

Longtime friend and former high school classmate Ken Talton, mayor of Mount Olive, messaged her about the Pickles, Pigs & Swigs festival.

“We should get your band here,” Talton wrote.

“Oh my gosh,” Kelly thought.

After a brief conversation, Kelly was set for a mini reunion.

She and her all-female band, Riggsbee Road, are booked to perform at the inaugural festival scheduled for Nov. 20 in downtown Mount Olive. They’ll take the stage at approximately 3:30 p.m.

“I’m so excited,” said Kelly, whose parents, Angelo and Peggy San Fratelo, still live in Mount Olive. “They don’t get out often to hear us play. They’ve gone to First Baptist Church since the 80s and remain active in the community. I’ve got fond memories of the Pickle Festival as well. I was in the Miss Pickle Festival pageant in high school and worked at the pickle plant during the summer.

“It’s going to be nostalgic … a mini reunion.”

Created less than a year ago, Riggsbee Road is a five-person bluegrass band that blends a variety of orchestra-type instruments with harmonic voices. The quintet currently performs cover songs comparable to music recorded by legendary award-winning groups such as the Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum.

Kelly handles lead vocals.

Skye Engstrom provides vocals while she plays either the banjo or guitar. Laura Schuchart provides vocals on keyboard, while Megan Maloney performs on the bass and cello.

Amy Hall handles the drums.

“Amy, Megan and Skye are full-time musicians, but Laura and I have jobs during the day,” Kelly said. “They are all just as passionate about the harmonies and vocals as much as I am. It’s non-bluegrass music in a bluegrass style.

“A lot of people don’t know all the words to a bluegrass song, but like the way it feels … easy and good.”

The name Riggsbee Road has a serendipitous meaning.

One afternoon Kelly and her husband, Jason Sykes, strolled through historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. They saw the name “Riggsbee” on a tombstone and Kelly thought it had an earthy, grassy feel — much like the band’s sound.

She later learned a love story associated with a Mrs. Riggsbee, who worked in downtown Raleigh and eventually met her soulmate at a drug store. The two married and after she died, the family interred her remains at Oakwood.

Ironically, Kelly met Sykes in the same building — a connection almost 100 years apart.

“It was a sign,” Kelly said.

Riggsbee Road began performing last May.

Each member also plays in other bands and has displayed their respective talents for music lovers over the past couple of decades.

Kelly relishes the energy she personally gets from singing music and loves to see that same energy permeate out into the community.

“I’m super excited to come back to Mount Olive,” she said. “The town has changed so much since I’ve been there. I’m anxious to see how it’s grown and evolved. We’re thrilled to be part of that whole movement.”

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