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Lawmakers tour the renovated Ellis Theater

BY STEVE SWOGETINSKY

About 50 members of the state Legislature traveled to Philadelphia last week to attend Marty Stuart’s Congress of Country Music at the recently renovated Ellis Theater.

State Rep. C. Scott Bounds and State Sen. Jenifer Branning, both from Philadelphia, co-hosted the event. Stuart was in attendance and gave a recital for lawmakers. Members of the Congressional Board of Directors were also in attendance along with Mayor James Young, Chief Cyrus Ben of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and other local leaders.

“We had put together a trip from lawmakers just to see the Ellis,” Bounds said. “The legislature provided the money to renovate the Ellis. It was done with government bond funds. We wanted to give members the opportunity to see what their money is doing for them.

“Around 45 members came by bus. They toured the Ellis Theater. Marty happened to be in town giving a solo gig. And then we went back to Jackson.”

Sen. Branning said the state has committed about $8 million to the project in various increments since about 2014. Both Branning and Bounds said the response has been very positive.

“They loved it,” Branning said. “They were blown away by the progress we made in Philadelphia. They believe Ellis will be a tremendous asset and they were very happy for us.”

“Those who saw it for the first time were really struck by its looks, its design and its beauty,” Bounds said. “We also explained the economic developments that happened because of the renovation. It all plays into the project and all 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 fellow Ricky Skaggs and Vince Gill, headlined the opening weekend to a sold-out audience.

With the reopening of the Ellis Theater, Phase 1 of the Congress of Country Music has been completed and funding has now begun for Phase 2 of the $40 million project. When the money is in, work will begin on a three-story building, located on the north side of the Ellis Theater behind the Main Street entrance, that will house Stuart’s large collection of country music artifacts and an education center. This will match the Ellis Theater which attracts sold out crowds at every performance.

“The audience for the shows was outstanding,” said Branning. “Everyone[the lawmakers present]spoke about the quality of construction of the building and the artistic touch in the details inside the building that tell the story of country music and the story of the community united to this end.

“But not only that, it’s the economic boom that we’re seeing in downtown retailers. Sales tax receipts for the City of Philadelphia were higher than ever.”

Mayor Young said it was a great day for Philadelphia.

“We had a great turnout from lawmakers,” Young said. “It was a great opportunity for them to see their investments in our city.”

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