Legislators tour renovated Ellis Theater
About 50 members of the state Legislature traveled to Philadelphia last week to tour Marty Stuart’s Congress of Country Music at the recently renovated Ellis Theater.
State Rep. C. Scott Bounds and State Sen. Jenifer Branning, both of Philadelphia, co-hosted the event. Stuart was present and performed a solo concert for lawmakers. Members of the Congress’ board of directors were there along the Mayor James Young, Chief Cyrus Ben of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and other local leaders.
“We had put together a trip of legislators only to view the Ellis,” Bounds said. “The Legislature appropriated the money for the renovation of the Ellis. It was done with state bond funds. We wanted to give members a chance to see what their money got for them.
“Around 45 members came up by bus. They toured the Ellis Theater. Marty happened to be in town and gave a solo performance. And then we went back to Jackson.”
Sen. Branning said since around 2014, the state has put around $8 million into the project in different increments. Both Branning and Bounds said the response has been very positive.
“They loved it,” Branning said. “They were blown away by the progress we have made in Philadelphia. They think the Ellis is going to be a tremendous asset and they were very happy for us.”
“Those who were seeing it for the first time where really put back by the way it looked, the design of it and the beauty of it,” Bounds said. “We explained, too, the economic development things that were happening because of the renovation. That all plays into the project and all of the things it can be.”
The historic Ellis Theater reopened in early December 2022 as the first phase of Marty Stuart’s Congress of Country Music. Stuart along with other Ricky Skaggs and Vince Gill headlined the opening weekend before sellout crowds.
With the Ellis Theater now reopened, Phase 1 of the Congress of Country Music is complete and now fund-raising for Phase 2 of the $40 million project has begun. When the money is in hand, work will begin on a three-story building located on the north side of the Ellis Theater behind the entrance on Main Street, which will house Stuart’s large collection of Country Music artifacts and an education center. This will fit in with the Ellis Theater which is drawing sellout crowds for each performance.
“The crowds for the shows have been outstanding,” Branning said. “Everyone (the visiting Legislators) talked about the quality of the construction of the building and the artistic touch in the details inside the building that tells the story of Country Music and the story that is united community for this purpose.
“But not only that, it is the economic boom we are seeing among the retailers downtown. Sales tax collections for the city of Philadelphia were more than ever before.”
Mayor Young said it was a great day for Philadelphia.
“We had a great turnout of the legislators,” Young said. “It was a great opportunity for them to see their investments in our city.”