New businesses springing up after opening of revamped Ellis Theater
Dr. Daniel Barnard said it was the intention to create a big splash with the opening of the Ellis Theater in Philadelphia.
Phase one of the $40 million project that will eventually house Marty Stuart’s immense collection of country music artifacts, opened its doors in December with a four-night grand reopening weekend.
“Marty Stuart, Ricky Skaggs and Bill Gather in four days was quite the scene,” said Barnard, the executive director of the Congress of Country Music. “There were a lot of people in town that came for the entire week. I think we created the splash we intended to.”
More: Hospital bucks trendA ray of hope: Mississippi Delta town may see hospital reopen when others are closing
More: Jackson Water CrisisJackson water crisis forces some restaurants to close. Mayor hopes system fixed by Saturday
The Ellis is a 100-year-old venue that has been restored and is serving the community again.
The Ellis Theatre was originally built as a silent movie theater in 1926 by the late Henry Bell Hutchison. In recent years it has served as a performance space for the Philadelphia-Neshoba County Arts Council.
“Now, it’s more of a long-term situation as we are waiting to see the impact on the community as we go forward,” Barnard said.
The long-term impact seems to be in good position as a new restaurant is opening just steps away from the Ellis Theater on the square in Philadelphia. Barnard also says the David Vowell and the Community Development Partnership of Philadelphia is in negotiations with multiple hotel chains to build and open a hotel in the downtown footprint.
“Many of the people came for the grand opening stayed at the reservation at the Golden Moon and that is fine,” Barnard said. “But there really is a need for a hotel in Philadelphia and this seems to be the tipping point for that and many other economic development opportunities.”
Barnard said it’s even a bigger mark for the Congress of Country Music because once this project opens fully, it’s going to be a regional draw.
“People will come from all over to see the collection and to see performances here,” he said.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony featured three prayers of invocation delivered by Philadelphia Mayor James Young, Choctaw Chief Cyrus Ben, and State Sen. Jennifer Branning. Marty Stuart and Connie Smith, along with other VIP attendees, joined the Choctaw Dancers for a special performance in the streets of downtown Philadelphia, and Mayor Young, Chief Ben, Marty Stuart and others gave speeches to honor the momentous occasion.
The opening night performance was headlined by Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives with special performances by Connie Smith and Jontavious Willis. The weekend continued with Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill and Bill Gaither highlighting the star-studded season for the Ellis Theater in downtown Philadelphia.
As for the opening weekend, Barnard said returns have been positive with an eye to the future.
“We had a big debrief about it. There are always one or two things you could do better, but in general we accomplished what we wanted to,” he said. “Our intention was to be as inclusive to everyone as we could. We feel like we did that and that we will continue to do that in the future.”
The Ellis Theater will continue its inaugural season with a variety of shows, including Mississippi native, HARDY. Performances in the historic Ellis Theater offer an intimate setting, creating a spiritual home for country music in the Magnolia State, promoters said.
Barnard said the mission of the Congress of Country Music is to reclaim, redefine and reintroduce the true heart and soul of country music.
“As country music’s most notable ambassador and the culture’s main archetypal crusader, Marty Stuart’s mission is to preserve and propel the authenticity of the culture of country music to future generations,” he said.
They claim the Congress of Country Music is the home of the largest private collection of country music artifacts in the world.
Up next for the Ellis is the Old Crow Medicine Show on Jan. 8, followed by Dervish on Feb. 24. The North Mississippi All Stars will perform April 14.
Phase 2 of Marty Stuart’s Congress of Country Music will see the construction of a new community center and meeting space on the lot just north of the theater. Featuring a giant, cathedral-style window arched to a center point at the top, the building will pay homage to the legendary Ryman Auditorium, home to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville from 1943 until 1974.
Then in the final stage, a museum and the educational building will be completed in the back that will serve as an exhibit space for Stuart’s personal collection of more than 20,000 pieces of country music memorabilia.
Included are boots, hats and other clothing items, personal belongings, hand-written manuscripts, vehicles and vintage guitars owned by musicians including Charley Pride, Pop Staples, Johnny Cash, Jimmie Rogers and others. Some of those items are currently on display in Jackson through December as part of "The World of Marty Stuart" exhibit at the Two Mississippi Museums.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: New businesses springing up after opening of revamped Ellis Theater