The Swanee Theatre – new live music venue in North Carolina

It’s just what the doctor ordered! After the world being shut down for two years with the global pandemic, bands are eager to perform and audiences are ready for a return to live entertainment. Ken Lingafelt and his partner, Kent Gregory, are providing a musical prescription for all involved by opening a new live music venue in central North Carolina that will include bluegrass and gospel shows.

The Swanee Theatre in Kannapolis opened for its first live event, an ’80s rock tribute band, in September. Its first bluegrass show was held on October 23, featuring two local favorites, Grass Strings and Bluegrass Blend. 

Built in 1939, it was one of four movie theaters constructed by Cannon Mills to entertain its employees. Presenting primarily westerns, the first movie, a John Wayne classic, was shown on November 1, 1940. It served the community in this capacity until 1974. That year, the building was converted into a welcome center and museum for the city of Kannapolis and the textile industry until 2005. Since then, it sat dormant until Lingafelt began remodeling the historic building in 2019.

“We restored it to how it was initially built, including the original 22 foot ceiling,” Lingafelt stated. “It’s the oldest venue with the newest renovations in downtown Kannapolis, bringing state of the art lighting and sound to our Kannapolis community!”

“I have three main bases, providing the audience with: comfort, sight, and sound. Our first bluegrass concert went really well. We had a good turnout and both bands received standing ovations.”

Lester Deaton, lead vocalist and guitarist of Grass Strings, shared, “With all the memories of going to the movies at the Swanee Theatre as a teenager, it was indeed a pleasure to be involved in the first show there after the complete renovation was finished. I think it’s going to be a great thing for Kannapolis and the surrounding region. We have needed something like this for a long time, and I think the people of the region are ready to support it. It’s a great venue!”

Entertainment continues at The Swanee Theatre with a country show this Saturday, November 12, featuring Cody Webb of South Carolina. A successful songwriter, he has had his music recorded by Luke Combs.

The next bluegrass event will be a Christmas show on Friday, December 9 (7:00-9:00 p.m.), with Darin & Brooke Aldridge. 

Darin stressed, “Brooke and I look forward to making our very first appearance at the Swanee Theatre in Kannapolis. It’s been over a year since we’ve played in the area and we’re excited to showcase This Life We’re Livin’, our incredible band, and help put a little holiday in your heart with some wonderful Christmas music.”

Look for more shows in 2023.

The Swanee Theatre is located at 200 West Ave, Kannapolis, NC. For more information, call (704) 935-0149 or visit their website.

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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.