Grand Ole Opry Treasures Survive the Flood
When middle Tennessee was hit by the ravaging effects of the worst flood in decades earlier this month, the Nashville community quickly stepped in to help. The Volunteer state got to work, rolled up their sleeves and began the process of cleaning up and raising money to help thousands of residents obtain food, shelter and financial assistance.
The flood created havoc not only for the people who live and work in Nashville and the surrounding area, it took its toll on several buildings and historical landmarks. The Grand Ole Opry Entertainment Complex -- home of the world famous Grand Ole Opry House, also found itself under several feet of water.
Immediately after the flood, the Opry became the site of an around-the-clock remediation process aimed at ensuring the well-being of Opry archives and collections affected by the flooding. The good news is that several of treasured, historical items inside the Opry were untouched by the flood, thanks to quick-thinking staff who moved them to safety in the hours before the complex began to take on water Sunday, May 2.
Among the items rescued were a copy of the Nashville Banner announcing WSM radio's first broadcast day, the steamboat whistle Opry founder George D. Hay blew to signal the beginning of Opry shows, the fiddle Opry patriarch Roy Acuff played during his first Opry performance, and a pair of shoes the queen of country comedy, Minnie Pearl, wore during more than 50 years of performances.
The Grand Ole Opry House's signature element, a six-foot circle of oak wood taken from the Ryman Auditorium when the show moved to the Grand Ole Opry House in 1974, is also safe. Though it and the rest of the stage were covered by 46 inches of water, the circle appeared to be in "remarkably good condition" according to Grand Ole Opry President Steve Buchanan.
Nearly all of the Opry's audio archives were safe above the flood water line inside the Grand Ole Opry House, though some audio material housed in the 650 WSM offices will receive professional attention. All artifacts that were in the path of flood waters have been carefully removed from the complex and placed in environments conducive to their safety. "As the caretakers of these items, we understand how valuable they are to our music, our country, and our culture," says Buchanan. "We are working with the very best professionals possible to ensure items are preserved. This will not be a short process, but rather one requiring much patience and meticulousness."
In addition to caring for all of the items affected by the flood, the Opry staff has also worked to preserve a new artifact created by the rising waters. An Opry House stage door more than halfway submerged in water became an indelible image of last week's flooding as a photo of it appeared online and in newspapers around the world, according to a statement released by the Opry. Earlier this week, the door was removed from the Opry House and treated so that its watermark will be preserved. "The stage door will no doubt become a historic symbol representing this extraordinary event," Buchanan says. "The Opry is the heart of country music, so it is not at all surprising that since the flood, people from around the world have been interested in the safety of some of our most treasured items. Next to the safety of our staff, nothing has been more important to us in our work over the last [several] days than taking care of these treasures."
Continuous updates on venues for Opry performances until the show returns to the Opry House can be found at the official Grand Ole Opry website. Among those scheduled to perform on the Opry in the coming weeks are Grammy winners Vince Gill, Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley, Ricky Skaggs, and Steve Wariner. Opry performances are held every weekend of the year and on Tuesdays through Dec. 14.