In this 2006 interview with WKNO producer Pierre Kimsey (filmed in the Dixie Carter and Hal Holbrook Museum located on the lower level of The Dixie) Dixie Carter talks about the special qualities of smalltown Tennessee that have kept her close to home. She was instrumental in helping the town of Huntingdon, TN, build a first-class performing arts center, which was named in her honor in 2005 and is now known simply as "The Dixie." (Recorded May 25, 2006)
Early in 1999, a group of concerned business leaders, led by Mayor Dale Kelley, met to discuss revitalization of the central business district (CBD) in Huntingdon. Several meetings resulted in a consensus that high priority should be placed on exterior improvements to the CBD buildings, a new restaurant and a theatre to create enthusiasm and enjoyment in downtown Huntingdon for the citizens of the town, the county and the region.
In December, 1999, the Mayor unveiled plans for The Dixie Carter Performing Arts and Academic Enrichment Center, to be located on the Court Square in Huntingdon and named in honor of the area’s most famous resident, actress Dixie Carter from nearby McClemoresville.
As plans were unveiled for the state-of-the-art facility which would be a cultural center for the area for folks of all ages – children to senior adults, donations and pledges to fund the development from area businesses, banks and committed citizens enabling the Town of Huntingdon to commit to the project.
Original plans were to renovate the four existing buildings that would house The Dixie Carter Performing Arts Center by doing everything structurally possible to retain the outer walls and the historical façade of the 125-year-old buildings that had been donated and purchased and develop a center for the performing arts within.
However, on Thursday, July 8, 2004, during the early construction phase, a portion of the south wall of The Dixie collapsed. After assessment of the new set of circumstances, architects and engineers determined that complete demolition of the existing buildings would be the safest route to a structurally sound building. Following demolition, brand new construction from foundation to fly loft began. Bricks from the original buildings have been used throughout The Dixie.
Mayor Kelley proposed to Dixie and Hal Holbrook the naming of the performing arts center and theatre within the performing arts center in honor of Hal Holbrook. Both Dixie and Hal were visibly moved and graciously accepted. We were delighted to include this honor for Mr. Holbrook, who was an invaluable consultant to the architect in designing the theatre at the Center. Both Dixie and Hal have graciously supported The Dixie throughout these 12 years by performing fundraisers. Dixie performed her Cabaret show in 2002 and Hal has performed numerous Mark Twain Tonight! shows all to full houses and overwhelmingly grateful audiences.
Now in 2018, we are embarking on our 14th season here at The Dixie. We have presented 442 Main Events in the Hal Holbrook Theatre to over 123,000 patrons and 238 School Time Performances to over 85,000 children!
Additionally, The Academic Enrichment Center plays a vital role in providing opportunities for arts and culture to our children in our rural area through dance classes, Dixie Youth Theatre, Dixie Children’s Chorus, Mudslingers Pottery Studio and Summer Camps. The Dixie also partners with Huntingdon Middle School in providing after-school classes including photography, cooking, and pottery at no cost to the students.
We have hosted an amazing group of performers at the Hal Holbrook Theatre, just a few of which are New York City Ballet, Nashville Symphony, Richard Marx, Lady Antebellum, Ronnie Milsap, Midtown Men, Carol Channing, Jason Isbell, Sara Evans and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. The Dixie is also home to The Dixie Players, our community theatre troupe.
The Dixie hosts numerous free events every season for the region which has included the 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit, U.S. Army Field Band Concert, Huntingdon Heritage Day Music and Arts Festival, Derby Day and Main Street Christmas to name a few. The Ballroom Gallery provides art exhibitions for various mediums honoring our Tennessee artists. And we house The Dixie Carter and Hal Holbrook Museum.
The Dixie Carter Performing Arts and Academic Enrichment Center, Home of the Hal Holbrook Theatre, has become a premiere cultural venue of West Tennessee which is an honor and a responsibility we hold dearly!