Ellis opening set Thursday
The reopening of the renovated Ellis Theater downtown Thursday marks the opening of Marty Stuart’s Congress of Country Music.
Marty Stuart did not win the talent contest under the Pavilion at the 1970 Neshoba County Fair, the CCM website says. He was thwarted by a baton twirler with a dazzling smile. Stuart did, however, go on to win five Grammy Awards, multiple gold and platinum albums, induction into the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame, and most importantly, the heart and hand of Connie Smith.
Growing up, Stuart, a Philadelphia native, spent many a Saturday afternoon walking to movies at the Ellis. Now, the Country Music Hall of Famer is back at the Ellis, realizing his dream of bringing the Congress of Country Music to downtown Philadelphia.
His dream is a proposed $40 million project that one day will house Stuart’s vast collection of Country Music memorabilia. The center will also serve as an education center.
Renovating the Ellis and creating a venue capable of attracting the top performers in the music industry while also serving the community’s Art Council is the first phase of Stuart’s dream.
Actual renovation of the Ellis began earlier this year with funding from the Legislature. The theater was stripped to the frame and is being formed into a state-of-the-art facility, proponents say.
“It’s part of a dream come true,” Stuart said. “I have no doubt the rest of it will come true. It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication and just staying with it. Everything about the building is world-class. It is going to be a magnificent facility for generations to come, to come and enjoy.”
There’s talk of a hotel downtown and other improvements that has the town abuzz with excitement and anticipation.
Stuart and his band, the Fabulous Superlatives, will headline the opening night next Thursday, Dec. 8 with two performances at 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Ricky Skaggs will perform two Friday night shows at 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Vince Gill will put on two shows that Saturday night starting at 9:30 pm. And 11:30 p.m.
The Bill Gaither Vocal Band will close the busy weekend Sunday afternoon Nov. 11 with showtimes at 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
“I think this telegraphs what the future is going to hold for Philadelphia,” Stuart said. “Acts like that go somewhere for two reasons. Either to make a lot of money, or to play at somewhere you believe in. All of those guys have been there and done it. They are world class and they can call their own shots these days. I think they are coming to Philadelphia because they know there is quality waiting on them, and their integrity waiting on them and artistic merit.
“I have no doubt they will walk through the door and I know they will return,” Stuart said. “There is a whole lot more just like them that I am dying to call that are coming to do this with us.”
There is a busy schedule of local events slated as well, starting with a parade at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 8 and the grand opening ribbon cutting on the Ellis Theater at 4 p.m.
Marty's Escort Parade will be led by the Mississippi Highway Patrol along with horses, antique cars and Marty’s bus.
Choctaw Indian Princess Cadence Raine Nickey will cut the ribbon at the Ellis. Choctaw Indian Dancers will perform along with the East Central Community College Band and Centralettes.
There will be an official plaque dedication in the Peets parking lot, 303 Range, behind the Ellis Theater at noon on Thursday.
A large tent will be set up next to the Ellis to be used for various performances and singers on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Go to congressofcountrymusic.org for a complete schedule. Some of the highlights are:
The Under The Tent schedule is as follows:
• Friday: 4:30 - 4:45 — MSMS Steppers (Female Team) from Columbus - dancing their unique style; 4:45 – 5 p.m. - Wyatt Ellis, a 13-year-old extraordinarily talented Bluegrass player from Tennessee on the mandolin, guitar, and fiddle;
5 p.m. - 5:15 - MSMS Steppers (male team) from Columbus - dancing their unique style; 5:15 - 5:45 - Callie Prince - hometown girl home from Nashville - singing and playing guitar;
• Saturday: 5:30 – 7 p.m. – Singer, song writer and band Mississippi Chris Sharp and Piper from Porterville;
• Sunday: 12:30 - 12:45 p.m. - First Methodist Church Men's Quartet and Solo; 12:45 – 1 p.m. - Tyler Greer - hometown boy home from The University of Kentucky and Courtney Smith, trombone, keyboard, vocal combo; 1 p.m. - 1:15 - Philadelphia Parish United Methodist Churches Praise Dancers; 1:15 - 1:30 - First Baptist Church Hand Bell Choir; 1:30 - 1:45 - Steve Eiland - Philadelphia High School principal spiritual vocal solo; 1:45 - 2:15 - Predestined - gospel vocal group from Louisville; 2:15 - 2:45 - Church at the Arc Praise Band.
The public is invited to attend all outdoors events.
A few tickets may be available for some shows in the Ellis. Call (601) 653-5358 for tickets.