Grand Opening of Phase 1 of Marty Stuart’s Congress of Country Music

December 8-11 marks the grand opening of the Ellis Theatre and phase one of Marty Stuart’s Congress of Country Music in Philadelphia, MS. Thursday, December 8, Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives kick off the four-day event. Friday, December 9, features Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Saturday, December 10, is Vince Gill, and Sunday concludes with the Gaither Vocal Band. There are two nightly shows for each performer, and a three-hour matinee on Sunday.

“There are still a few tickets available,” stated MSCCM Executive Director, Dr. Dan Barnard. “Vince’s first show, Marty and Ricky’s second shows, and the Gaithers are already sold out.”

Marty Stuart’s Congress of Country Music is a vision coming to life of a spiritual home for country music – a cathedral where the spirits of country music legends and the fires of today’s creative souls converge. Stuart and his manager came up with the idea of a Congress of Country Music, pulling it from a historical reference from Buffalo Bill, a gathering of many different people, a converging of many diverse constituents.

The grand opening will launch what is expected to be an economic boost for Stuart’s hometown of about 7,100 people.

“This is the beginning of a major change for downtown Philadelphia,” relayed Dr. Barnard. “A vibrant cultural season at the Ellis will be an economic driver, with ripple effects across the community. And this is just phase one of a $40 million project, which will eventually house Marty Stuart’s immense collection of country music artifacts, and draw visitors from across the region.”

The Ellis Theatre was originally built as a silent movie theater in 1926 by the late Henry Bell Hutchison. The newly-renovated space boasts 508 seats, with the balcony and VIP boxes, a starlight ceiling, and a circle in the stage right where the headliners stand, similar to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

“It is spectacular, incredible work,” Barnard said of the theater rehabilitation, which includes a new roof, new seating, new HVAC and electrical systems, new plumbing, a new fire protection system, all new audio-visual equipment, and more. “All the seats came from a theater in Culpepper, VA, that had acquired them from the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.”

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. 

The final stage will be the completion of a museum and educational building that will serve as an exhibit space for Stuart’s personal collection of country music memorabilia, the largest private collection of country music artifacts in the world. With a lifelong passion for protecting and preserving country music’s legacy, Stuart has assembled over 20,000 pieces that tell a rich, emotional, and personal story of the lives of our common heritage.

“A 501c3 organization, we are currently under a big fund raising campaign,” the Executive Director explained. “We’ve had great support of funding from the city and state. Completion of the entire project is probably three years out.”

Their website states,

“Marty Stuart’s Congress of Country Music wishes to thank the hundreds of people who have generously donated to this project over the last several years. 

Your gifts have enabled us to be set to open phase one. There is more to do as we gear up for phases two and three. Please watch this space for more information about how to support us in the coming months as we make the final push toward building and operating one of the most unique museums on the planet.”

For grand opening show tickets, visit the Congress online, or call 601-653-5358. There are two small lots for parking, and additional parking is available along the street.

The Ellis Theatre is located at 311 Byrd Ave in Philadelphia, MS.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.