Monthly archives: May, 2016

Johnny Cash Heritage Festival to Begin

(From left) Dr. Ruth Hawkins, director of Arkansas State University Heritage Sites program; Joanne Cash Yates, Johnny Cash's sister; Tommy Cash, Johnny Cash's brother and Dyess mayor Ken Gilmore.

(From left) Dr. Ruth Hawkins, director of Arkansas State University Heritage Sites program; Joanne Cash Yates, Johnny Cash’s sister; Tommy Cash, Johnny Cash’s brother and Dyess mayor Ken Gilmore.

JONESBORO — After the immensely successful music events honoring international music icon Johnny Cash and benefitting restoration of his boyhood home, a new chapter begins in 2017 with the Johnny Cash Heritage Festival.

The new event that combines educational activities in Dyess, as well as entertainment and special events, continues the legacy of the earlier concert series held in Jonesboro.

“I am thrilled to join Arkansas State University in announcing the first Johnny Cash Heritage Festival,” said Rosanne Cash, who worked with the university in developing plans for the festival. “For the first time, we will hold a festival in Dyess, in the cotton fields surrounding my dad’s childhood home and in the town center of the colony. We foresee an annual festival that will include both world-renowned artists on the main stage and local musicians on smaller stages, as well as educational panels, exhibits and local crafts.”

The inaugural Johnny Cash Heritage Festival is set for Oct. 19-21, 2017, in Dyess. It will be extended beyond music to become a “heritage” festival, thus creating a great sense of both time and place associated with Johnny Cash’s early years.

“As anyone who has spent any time listening – truly listening – to Johnny Cash knows, his music was born of some of the most profound events of the 20th century,” said A-State Chancellor Tim Hudson. “A child of the Great Depression and an advocate for those without a voice in the 1960s, his legacy is point of entry for generations to come to understand America. By incorporating discussions of the societal and historical forces that shaped our nation into this celebration, we are broadening the understanding of Johnny Cash.”

Johnny Cash’s two living siblings, Joanne Cash Yates and Tommy Cash, were present for the announcement.

Dr. Ruth Hawkins, director of the Arkansas State University Heritage Sites program, noted the event would become a true festival by extending from a one-evening concert event to a three-day event that includes both educational and entertainment components. She also stated that the Heritage Studies, Ph.D. program would coordinate the educational/academic events with overall coordination through Arkansas State University Heritage Sites.

“Assisting in carrying out the Master Plan for making the Dyess Colony and Johnny Cash Boyhood Home a major tourism destination will continue as one of the key goals of the festival,” Hawkins said. “The next phase will be to re-create the farmstead buildings at the Cash Boyhood Home and to provide other needed services and amenities for heritage tourists who come to visit the site.
“It is fitting to incorporate the New Deal heritage that was part of Johnny Cash’s formative years into a major annual event that shines light on a critical era that is fading from memory,” Hawkins continued. This three-day event will include entertainment events on Friday and Saturday, preceded by an educational conference on Thursday and Friday, she added.

For further announcements regarding the October 2017 festival, visit the festival Website or Facebook page.

Dyess Colony Visitors Center Opens

Dyess Colony Visitors Center Set for Grand Opening on May 21

Visitors CenterJONESBORO — Visitors will have an opportunity to celebrate the Grand Opening of the Dyess Colony Visitors Center at the site of the former theatre and pop shop, Saturday, May 21, in Colony Circle, 110 Center Drive. Transformation of the theatre and pop shop into the Visitors Center is phase two of the master plan for the Dyess Colony restoration.

Remarks are at 10:30 a.m. Hamburgers, hot dogs and soft drinks are available at the Colony Circle site from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. From 9 a.m.-3 p.m., tours of the administration building exhibits, the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home and Visitors Center are available free of charge. Joanne Cash and Tommy Cash, siblings of legendary singer Johnny Cash, will be on hand for remarks. Tommy was once a projectionist at the theatre.

The special event coincides with the 80th anniversary of the grand opening of the original Colony Circle buildings. In August 2014, phase one, including restoration of the administration building and the Cash home, was opened to the public.

In order to preserve the heritage of the Dyess Colony, A-State personnel, led by Dr. Ruth Hawkins, executive director of Arkansas State University’s Arkansas Heritage Sites program, and assistant director Paula Miles, have worked diligently to obtain grants and private donations to restore key structures in the Dyess area. When restoration of theatre began, only the front façade was standing.

The original community building burned and a new theatre was built in 1947. Now completely reconstructed, it serves as a visitor/orientation center, featuring films, materials and other exhibits.

The colony was named Dyess Colony, as a federal agricultural resettlement community for Mississippi County native and for Arkansas’s first Works Progress Administration (WPA) manager, William Reynolds Dyess.

The Dyess Colony was created in 1934 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to aid in the nation’s economic recovery from the Great Depression. As a federal agricultural resettlement community, it provided a fresh start for nearly 500 impoverished Arkansas farm families, including the family of Johnny Cash.

The colony was laid out with a town center at the hub and farmsteads stretching out from the center. The first 13 families arrived in October 1934. On May 22, 1936, an official dedication was held on the second anniversary of the colony. The project was renamed Dyess Colony in honor of its founder, W.R. Dyess, who died in a plane crash earlier that year.

Several weeks after the official dedication, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited Dyess and addressed the colonists from the front steps of the colony’s administration building.

For additional information, call (870) 764-CASH (2274).