(Town Crier photo/Nan Snider)
The new theatre is nostalgic with classic decorations, comfortable cushioned seating and equipped with a well lit stage and acoustics for fine listening pleasure in every seat in the house.
Music and Memories is located at 109 W. Drew Street, in Monette, and has plenty of parking to the north and west of the building, as well as along the street.
Tammy Nelson Hicks of Black Oak has been singing all her life, and has been a member of several groups, quartets and trios around Buffalo Island. She is currently the lead singer for the New Hope Trio, along with vocalists Jerry Reed of Monette, and Micheal Gamble of Manila.
The new theatre is a partnership between Tammy, her husband Scott, and son Beau. Every family member plays a part. Tammy will be in charge of entertainment segment of the theatre, Scott is in charge of the sound, and Beau, along with Corey Clay, will operate the concession stand at the entrance.
"This theatre is an answer to prayer for me," Mrs. Hicks said. "I have wanted something like this for a long time, and dreamed of it many times. It has been a desire in my heart for over 15 years.
"This year things just began to fall in place for the dream to become a reality for us," Hicks said. ""A former singer with New Hope, Tony Uthoff's father Dwayne owned this building and we found out it was up for sale. Finding out that the building was available began to open doors for us. With Scott's support and encouragement we were able to finance it. Friends and fellow singers volunteered to help us work on restoration. A piano was donated at Paragould. Twenty nice padded church pews were donated by a small church in Wynne.
"We have had volunteers doing painting, plumbing, electrical work, and general construction," Hicks said. "The City of Monette has been so supportive with our efforts, and the mayor and aldermen drop by often to see how things are going, and see if they can help. My friend Sheryl Douglas painted a most impressive mural of the song book Amazing Grace. Everyone who has an interest in music has come by to find out all about the performances to be expected.
"We received one sizeable donation and many smaller ones," Hicks said. "I was watching a dream come true. I could see that this was God's timing for me to have a place where people could come regularly and enjoy music.
"We have dedicated the building to God and to our friends Duke and Ealline Collins," Hicks said. "Without God, none of this would have been possible. My friend Duke Collins, passed away this year, but knew the dream was on it's way of coming to realisation. He had encouraged me all my life. As a child, he would pick me up to take me to church on Sunday at the United Methodist Church in Black Oak. He loved music and saw in me potential to sing. At one time we had the Country Echos which consisted of Duke, Ronnie McCord, Marvin Browning, and Fred Nelson.
"I plan to hang some old photos of earlier gospel and country groups in the new theatre," Hicks said. "These will bring back a lot of memories to area people as they probably heard them sing at one time or another.
"We won't charge any admission to get in," Hicks said. "We want the music program accessible to everyone who wants to come. We will take up a love offering and donations afterwards. If someone wants to contribute they can.
"We wanted to have all the conveniences available to any music theatre," Hicks said. "We wanted the seats to be comfortable, the room well lit and heated, the stage built up for a good view, good lighting and sound, and most of all good gospel and country entertainment. Most people want a soda or something to eat while at a performance so we added concessions out front, with drinks, hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, sodas and coffee.
"We plan to add a little bit of Christian comedy later on just for fun," Hicks said. "We will have our grand opening from 8 p.m. to midnight on Friday, New Year's Eve. The New Hope Trio will sing, along with Alleluia (singers are Gena Alberta, Carolyn Parrish, Pat DeFries, Donna Barnes, and Judy Perrin) and vocalist Bill Davenport.
"New Hope has been practicing here on Tuesdays and you wouldn't believe the people who just come by to hear us practice," Hicks said. "I really believe that God has made this theatre become a reality because He knows interest is out there for gospel singing. Singing is like delivering sermons in song, and that is what we want to do.
"After our grand opening, we plan to be open from 6:30-8:30 p.m. each Friday night," Hicks said. "Hopefully people will get use to coming to Monette, eating out and coming on down to the music theatre show."
The Hicks family are busy working people and all the things they do with music and the theatre are after hours and on weekends. Tammy is manager for Heil Beauty Supplies in Jonesboro and Scott works for the Craighead County Eastern District Road Department in Black Oak. They are active members of Rose Chapel Baptist Church, near Caraway.
Many other small towns started out by adding entertainment theatres, eating places and antique stores, like Branson, Hardy, and Mt. View, and went on to become thriving tourist meccas. New industry and businesses are springing up all across Buffalo Island and are a testament that people are still looking to small towns for selective shopping, good eating and entertainment.