Hundreds of Patsy Cline fans will converge on this Shenandoah Valley city next weekend for an elaborate three-day tribute to the legendary country singer. They'll hear her music played by a live band, visit her old high school, sit in the wooden booths of the pharmacy where she once served sodas and attend a memorial service at her grave.
But few of them will travel to the community just 12 miles away that was Cline's first home, to see her former elementary school or the Baptist church where she sang in the choir.
Those sites, in the hamlet of Gore, Va., aren't part of the first-ever "Patsy Cline Festival" that Winchester is throwing. In fact, the Cline exhibit at Winchester's visitor center doesn't even mention Gore.
It's a snub that Gore residents resent deeply.
"They think Gore is nothing," said Lyndell Anderson, 63, a truck repairman who has lived in Gore all his life and knew Cline when they attended Sidney Gore Elementary School. "We feel left out."
"It's a shame people don't know about Gore," said Joseph Lineberg, 69, a Gore native who says he once dated Cline. "I mean, she was born here."
More than hurt feelings are at stake. With the resurgence of the singer's popularity, a community's link to Cline is worth some tourism dollars, local officials acknowledge.
Cline, who crooned such classics as "Walkin' After Midnight," "I Fall to Pieces" and "Crazy," died in a plane crash in 1963 at the age of 30. Sales of her recordings have boomed in recent years, in part because of her depiction in the 1985 movie "Sweet Dreams," starring Jessica Lange.
Gore residents would like to turn their abandoned elementary school into a Cline memorial, while Winchester officials will put the proceeds from next weekend's festival, which they say could draw 5,000 people, into a fund to build a Cline museum.
So far Winchester is winning on that front, too. Frederick County officials say they aren't interested in funding the Gore project but would consider helping to pay for the Winchester museum, although the city plans to raise most of the money from private sources.
Then there is Elkton, Va., a town in the Blue Ridge Mountains where Cline and her parents lived briefly. It has drawn up plans to build a Cline concert hall and museum in the center of town.
Margaret Jones, author of a recent Cline biography, said there are a dozen places in Virginia that could claim to be Cline's home town.
"Part of the problem is that the family moved around 19 times before she was 15," Jones said. "So there are a lot of towns that could claim Patsy as one of their own."
Winchester officials, however, say their city should be considered Cline's home because she lived here longest -- 12 years -- and always identified herself as being from Winchester.
"Any time she was interviewed she referred to Winchester as her home," said Kitty Zuckerman, Winchester's director of tourism. "If you ask any Patsy Cline fan where Patsy was from, they're going to say Winchester."
According to Jones's 1994 biography, Cline was born Sept. 8, 1932, at Winchester Memorial Hospital, but her home address at the time was in Gore. Her family stayed in Gore only a few weeks before moving to a farmhouse just outside Elkton. They would move more than a dozen times after that, returning to Gore twice, before making a final move to Winchester when Cline was 15.
But the adult Cline didn't stay in Winchester. She moved to Frederick, Md., to live with her first husband, Gerald Cline, and then to Nashville with her second husband, Charles Dick.
"She led a nomadic life," said Mel Dick, Cline's brother-in-law and a Winchester resident who manages the Always Patsy Cline Fan Club. "She moved so many times, there is a lot of misunderstanding about which place should be her home town. I have no doubt it should be Winchester."
But folks in Gore say Winchester's embrace of Cline is irritating not only because it has excluded their community but also because Winchester residents shunned Cline as a woman of loose morals when she was alive and gave her little recognition after she died.
"It's a joke," said a cashier at Gore's only store, the C&S Again Groceries. "She was considered a wild woman who ran around with men, and people in Winchester didn't like her much. Now, all of a sudden, they're like, Oh, we're the home of Patsy Cline.' "
As recently as 1986, the Winchester City Council rejected plans to name a street after Cline by a vote of 11 to 1. But the tide finally turned six years ago when a local real estate developer convinced city leaders that honoring the superstar would be good for business. The city put up a welcome sign declaring itself to be Cline's home town and filled a display case in the visitor center with the singer's 45-rpm records. About 500 people a year have signed the guest book at the display, some coming from as far as Russia and Australia.
One Winchester resident who apparently hasn't forgiven the city for its harsh treatment of Cline is her mother, Hilda Hensley, who has stayed away from the city's recent tributes. Hensley has declined to be interviewed, but a local newspaper reported that she recently visited Elkton to lend support to its proposed Cline shrine.
"Winchester didn't do a whole lot for Patsy, so she doesn't feel she should do anything for Winchester," Dick said.
Zuckerman acknowledged that Cline was an outcast in Winchester during her musical career. But that's all in the past now, she said, and has nothing to do with the renewed interest in Cline among Winchester's younger residents.
"That's the way people thought about her then, but that's 30 years ago," Zuckerman said. "Things change, and we've changed. I think it's time to put that aside and honor a very remarkable talent."
Jones, the author, said Cline probably would be amused by all the ruckus over which place should be called her home town.
"She adopted Winchester because she had to say where she was from in interviews," Jones said. "But there wasn't much fondness for the city. She really didn't have a home, so she really didn't have a home town. She never felt at home anywhere." CAPTION: Top, Patsy Cline's grave in Winchester, Va. The city's "home town" claim, trumpeted in the sign, has miffed residents of nearby Gore. CAPTION: Dave Tomkins and son Robert, visitors from England, look over Patsy Cline memorabilia on display in Winchester, Va. According to a 1994 biography, Cline was born in 1932 at Winchester Memorial Hospital, but her family was living in Gore, Va., at the time.