SOMERVILLE, NJ - Big Hix, a country/western tribute band, was born on the balcony of a Red Roof Inn at the Jersey shore just months after Super Storm Sandy ravaged the coastline almost five years ago.
Dale Toth, guitarist, lead vocalist and co-founder of the band was living in a room at the hotel temporarily, a refugee from the devastating storm. He was visited that day by Pemberton Roach, co-founder and bass player.
“There was a lot of time to think and brainstorm,” Toth recalls.
"We thought, ‘Why not start a country band,’ Toth continued. “I said ‘I think we should try and do something we know well but something that is different for us’ and it worked out.”
Big Hix will perform at the Somerville Elks’ Flag Day festival on Friday night, June 15th beginning at 7 p.m., performing songs by Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert and other contemporary Nashville stars, as well as choice old-school classics from the golden age of Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton.
“We do our very best to emulate each artist we play,” Toth said. “We want to try and do each song as true as possible.”
The other members of the band are Lauren Davidson, lead vocals; Dylan Wissing, drums; Jon Skibic, lead guitar and Joe Young, guitar.
Toth, who grew up in Manville, was playing country music on a guitar by the time he was 11,; his father was also a country/western musician, playing bass guitar.
Combined, Toth figures the ban has been playing music and performing in front of crowds for at least 140 years.
Now in its fifth year, the festival will also feature vintage fire trucks, military vehicles, re-enactors from eras past, a scavenger hunt, games, food vendors, Boy Scouts, a few speeches from elected officials, topped off by a big crowd and a giant American flag waving in the wind over Main Street - all the ingredients for a Norman Rockwell painting come to life.
The festival will be held on the grounds surrounding the historic Somerset County Courthouse on East Main Street.
The concert and all activities are free.
The annual celebration begins on a serious note, with a Naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens living in Somerset County on the steps of the courthouse. There will also be an interactive scavenger hunt for children to find prizes among the exhibitors, and they will also be entertained by carnival style games and activities hosted by the Somerville/Bridgewater YMCA and others.
The sponsoring Elks Lodge #1068 will conduct a Flag Day ceremony. There will also be a salute to U.S. veterans and a re-enactment of U.S. Marines planting the American flag on Mt. Suribachi, Feb. 23, 1945, on the Japanese-held Pacific island of Iwo Jima in the closing days of World War II.
Re-enactors from the Revolutionary War and Civil War will also mix with the crowd during the celebration.
The Boy Scouts of America, Raritan Valley District, will be hosting a class for scouts to earn the American Heritage Merit Badge on the courthouse grounds.
Donations for care packages that will be shipped to U.S. troops deployed overseas will be collected by volunteers from Operation Shoebox New Jersey, a non-profit volunteer organization based in Somerville and Hillsborough that has shipped more than 140,000 care packages overseas since 2005.
As part of its ongoing fund raising efforts, OPSHBX NJ will sell prints of a 91-year-old oil painting depicting the American Eagle and 48-star American flag. Measuring 16 34-by-24 inches, the original painting was done in 1927 by Gerard F. Hirsch, the father of OPSHBX NJ founder Rod Hirsch, when he was 11 years old.
Further information about the Flag Day celebration and a list of items that can donated for the care packages can be found online at FlagDayFestival.org