Visitors will have an opportunity to celebrate the grand opening of the Dyess Colony Visitors Center as well as phase two of a restoration project at the site of the former theatre and pop shop on May 21, in Colony Circle, 110 Center Drive.
Remarks will be at 10:30 a.m. Hamburgers, hot dogs and soft drinks are available at the Colony Circle site from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. From 9 a.m. to 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 Cash 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. Phase one of the project, including restoration of the administration building and the Cash home, was opened to the public in August 2014.
In order to preserve the heritage of the Dyess Colony, ASU personnel, led by Dr. Ruth Hawkins, executive director of Arkansas State University’s Arkansas Heritage Sites program, and assistant director Paula Miles, have worked to obtain grants and private donations to restore key structures in the Dyess area. When restoration of the 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 will serve 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 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, officials said Wednesday (May 4).
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.