A familiar face, and voice, Robert "Moose" Dodrill will once again sing the National Anthem at the opening ceremony for the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival on Friday. No stranger to the Heritage Port Stage, Dodrill said it has been a goal to sing at the festival for years.
"I began singing here in the valley in high school," Dodrill, a Bellaire native, said. "I started a notebook, writing in it all the things I wanted to do."
"I wrote down that I wanted to sing at the Italian Festival and since then it has been a dream to sing there," Dodrill said. He was first offered the opportunity in 2008, and with the exception of one year when he was hospitalized with an illness, he never misses.
Seen here singing the National Anthem for Jamboree in the Hills in 2012, Robert 'Moose' Dodrill of Bellaire will once again vocalize his version of The Star Spangled Banner at the opening ceremony for the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival on Friday at noon in Wheeling.
"I really enjoy singing the national anthem," he said. "I joined the Air Force after high school at age 17 and really have a deep respect for all our active military and our veterans."
His favorite national anthem memory came back in 2012 when he sang for the opening ceremonies at Jamboree in the Hills. "Aaron Lewis was back stage and when I finished up, he came over and hit me with an elbow and screamed at me, 'That's the way you sing it man! You nailed it!'"
The former front man of the rock group Staind was so excited about the performance that security came running over to the stage door entrance. "They did not know what was going on, and for a minute there neither did I. But it is something I will never forget."
Dodrill said that despite having many opportunities to sing with national recording artists over the years, he still gets star struck.
"I have sang with most of the local talent, even Brad Paisley when he was here in the valley," Dodrill said, rolling off a list of local artists and Nashville stars including Hank Williams Jr., George Strait, Ray Price, Eddy Arnold, Charlie Pride and a special duet with Lee Greenwood on his patriotic hit, "God Bless the USA."
Dodrill said he will return to the Heritage Port stage Saturday at noon to sing the Star Spangled Banner for the Veteran's Appreciation Ceremony, which is the highlight of the weekend for 'Moose.'
"The ceremony is very special to me," he related. "I always get a little emotional when they lay the wreaths in the water for the veterans and POW/MIA."
Dodrill will also sing a patriotic song for the ceremony.
In addition to Dodrill, another local group singing at the festival Friday night will be the Joseph Sisters, a favorite of Dodrill's since he heard them last year at Jamboree in the Hills. The Joseph Sisters are taking the stage from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m.
Several other performers are slated. Ronnie Fiorentino follows Dodrill, providing smooth vocal stylings with Italian flair. At 3 p.m., 40+ will rock the river bank with some favorites from the 60's and 70's. New local band Two Bridges takes the stage before the Joseph's, while Bo Wagner's Rat Pack with Jeremy Olsen Orchestra and Pittsburgh's legendary guitarist Tony Janflone Jr. wrap up the Friday night entertainment.
The festival runs through Sunday with fun, food and attractions for all ages. For additional information visit the festival on Facebook or on their web page at www.italyfest.com.