Tribune-Courier News Editor
DRAFFENVILLE — The Kentucky Opry is preparing to celebrate its silver anniversary with festivities Friday and Saturday.
Opry co-founder Clay Campbell said Friday’s events include a meet and greet of current Opry stars and an open house with refreshments from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
“On Saturday, we will have a potluck dinner beginning at 6 p.m.,” Campbell said. “Then at 7:30, we will have several former members of the Opry return for what will be a family reunion.”
Returning acts include mother and daughter Ronecca and Blair Joseph, Vickie Vaughn, Jasmine Davis, a couple of Campbell’s sons in the Campbell Boys and Scotty Henson.
“There will be eight or 10 former members returning to perform,” Campbell said. “It’s going to be a very nostalgic show.”
Campbell said he started the Opry in spring of 1988 with wife Barbie in a quonset hut now used as a real estate office.
“We were inspired by the shows in Branson,” Campbell said. “I got my start with Lee Mace and the Ozark Opry in 1964. Opry shows have been around a long time. Lee Mace got started in 1954, and shows in Branson, Mo. and Gatlinburg, Tenn. started to get big in the late ‘50’s.”
In the fall 1989, construction for a new 520-seat theatre on U.S. 641 was started, and the first show was performed in the new building on New Year’s Eve, 1989, with over 600 in attendance.
“One night, we had Merle Haggard play, and his band came in and asked where they could buy booze,” Campbell said. “I told them it was a dry county, and he said, ‘It looks like we’re going to have a great show tonight,’ and I hoped so. It certainly was a good show.”
Campbell said he has hosted acts like Lee Greenwood, Jerry Clower, Stonewall Jackson, gospel groups like Gold City and the Isaacs and bluegrass performers like Bill Monroe and J.D. Crow.
Some of his band members have been with him for 24 years. He listed Ronnie and Alan Griggs and Steve Helm as long-time Opry performers.
“The future is the Opry will be doing a lot to bring major country acts to the Carson Center in Paducah. We’ve brought George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Ray Stevens and the Oak Ridge Boys. We’re working to get Kenny Rogers later this year.”
Another avenue where the Opry has expanded is tourism. Campbell said the Opry organizes bus tours to destinations like Nashville, Branson, Gatlinburg and New Orleans.
“We’re also bringing in some new country stars that have had a hit record. We think this will appeal to a younger audience,” Campbell said.
Another new offering at the Opry is Last Laugh Friday. Campbell said he books comedians appearing on Comedy Central and the Tonight Show to entertain audiences on the last Friday of every month.
The open house is free. Admission to the reunion concert is $16 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for students and $7.50 for children. For more information, visit www.kentuckyopry.com.