The famous wooden circle has been restored and placed at center stage at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville after the venue was extensively damaged following the May flooding. Opry members Brad Paisley and Little Jimmy Dickens presided over the Wednesday morning (Aug. 25) ceremony, helping a small crew of workers lift and lower the circle into the floor.
After the circle was in place, Paisley and Dickens stood on it to sing an acoustic rendition of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” They also shared their feelings about the renovation of the Opry House, which is scheduled to reopen with an all-star concert on Sept. 28.
The six-foot oak circle was taken from the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, where countless country legends had stood on it during the Opry’s tenure there, and moved to the Grand Ole Opry House in 1974 for its debut performance at the new venue. However, the circle and the entire Opry stage was covered in 46 inches of water during the May flood. A variety of venues have hosted the show in the interim, including local auditoriums, churches and colleges, with no cancellations since the flood.
“It’s one thing to play the Opry, which is the birthplace of my form of music, and country music in general, but it’s another thing to have a home for it,” Paisley told reporters seated on stage. “I don’t think any other form of music necessarily has this place where the past and the future sort of collide.”
After recalling several names of country legends who had stood inside the circle, such as Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn and Ernest Tubb, Paisley added, “I think keeping, physically and metaphorically, this bond with the past is something that separates the Opry from almost all other musical institutions.” Paisley, 37, joined the Opry in 2001.
Dickens, 89, an Opry member since 1948, said he tried to enter the Opry House shortly after the flood to check on clothing and memorabilia in his locker, but he wasn’t allowed inside. He told reporters the flood damage brought him to tears, and he spoke emotionally about his connection to the famous stage.
“I walk the floor at home and my wife says, ’What are you doing?’ I say, ’I’m waiting for Friday so I can go to the Opry House,'” he said. “That’s what I think about this place. You couldn’t work for nicer people than we have here at the Opry.”
The star-studded Country Comes Home event will feature performances by Paisley and Dickens, as well as Trace Adkins, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Charlie Daniels Band, Diamond Rio, Del McCoury Band, Montgomery Gentry, Blake Shelton, Mel Tillis and Josh Turner.
To celebrate the renovation, the public is invited to a free open house on Oct. 2 to see the new stage and dressing rooms. The Opry will also celebrate its 85th anniversary on Oct. 8 and 9, while the Judds will be there Oct. 15 to flip the switch to turn the Opry backdrop pink in support of breast cancer awareness month.
The press conference was also attended by Gaylord CEO Colin Reed, Grand Ole Opry executives Steve Buchanan and Pete Fisher, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.