CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — While he might not be the one building the stages and placing the equipment, Wayne Pauley is there lending his expertise and hoping to help inspire another generation.

The Charleston Sternwheel Regatta kicks off this Thursday in Charleston, marking the return of an event that sparks a great deal of nostalgia for those who grew up in the Kanawha Valley.

Set up for the Regatta is already in full swing on Kanawha Boulevard.

The Regatta brings back big memories for Pauley. It’s where he says his career in the music industry really got going. He was a bass player in the ensemble band for his school’s show choir.

“In 1987 the Stonewall Jackson VIPs were invited to be the opening act for Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine,” Pauley said. “We were all teenagers. It was a big deal. It kind of changed my life.”

The experience moved him.

“I was just overwhelmed with emotion. It wasn’t until later that I realized what had actually happened and it was something,” Pauley said.

He’d later go to Nashville and become an audio engineer and production manager. For several years now, he’s been on the road with country music star Lee Brice.

Now, he’s back, giving his time as a production consultant to help give another generation the chance to experience the Regatta.

“This was such an influential thing to me in my life that I feel like it is important for the community and the young people of the community to know hey, just keep at it and you can do what you want,” Pauley said.

Photo Courtesy: Wayne Pauley

And as they watch performers take the stage over the next few days he’s hoping the dreamers in the crowd will leave knowing what they are capable of and experience what he did decades ago.

“The true key to success is perseverance. Don’t ever stop trying. Keep at it. There’s no expiration date on your dreams,” Pauley said.