I was told “good luck.”
In August 2012, as one of my first assignments for The Smoky Mountain News, I found myself at the doorstep of the Maggie Valley Opry House. Owned and operated by acclaimed banjoist Raymond Fairchild, I was told “good luck” when it came to actually having a civil interview with the bluegrass icon. Referred to as “crabby” or “ironclad,” I wondered just how well my sit-down with him would actually go.
Heading north on State Road 135, just outside the small town of Nashville, Indiana, the stretch of pavement curves along a mountain ridge, as if you’re rolling along the spine of a snake. Though the last rays of summer are still holding strong back in Western North Carolina, fall colors had spilled onto the endless landscape of multi-colored trees and sheered cornfields in the heartland of America.
With Nashville in the rearview mirror, you roll up and down the foothills of rural Brown County. Soon, a large bright yellow sign appears to your right. You almost have to slam your brakes when it makes itself known at the last second. In big letters it states, “Bill Monroe’s Memorial Music Park & Campground — Home of the Brown County Jamboree.”
With one flick of a light switch, Grier Lackey is illuminating a dream.
“What do you think?” he said with a smile.
Standing inside Eaglenest, an 800-seat theatre in Maggie Valley, Lackey scans the enormous room, pointing out design details and other amenities offered on the premises. Closed since 2011, the state-of-the-art facility will once again open its doors to the entertainment possibilities of Western North Carolina.
Raymond Fairchild is a man of few words.
But, it only takes those few words to truly grasp a man that ultimately lives up to myth and legend.
By Charles and Cynthia Seeley • Guest Columnists
I am a visitor to Maggie Valley. My husband, two friends and I chose this area of the North Carolina mountains as our vacation destination by pure chance. Our goal was to see the beautiful Smoky Mountains while doing a little sightseeing at some of the well-known tourist places in the area. Something happened, however that made the Biltmore Estate, Dollywood and casinos, although nice, irrelevant. And that was Raymond Fairchild and his Maggie Valley Opry.
On a recent Thursday evening, my husband and I went to hear him. We knew he was a five-time world-champion banjo player. That would have been enough — just to have the opportunity to hear banjo music from a renowned musician was all that we had expected. We came away with a lifetime experience and a respect for the musician and his colleagues that goes far deeper than an evening of entertainment.