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Mammoth Spring prepares for Solemn Old Judge Day

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Solemn Old Judge Day will soon arrive in Mammoth Spring starting Friday, Sept. 4.

Mammoth Spring Mayor Jean Pace said this will be the town's 21st Solemn Old Judge Day event, and there is sure to be fun for everyone, young and old.

For those who are new to the Mammoth Spring area, just visiting or just want to know a little bit of history, Solemn Old Judge Day was created to commemorate George Dewey Hay, the founder of the Grand Ole Opry.

Hay was inspired to create the Grand Ole Opry after he visited the Mammoth Spring area and heard the bluegrass and folk music of the Ozarks. He was enchanted by the fun-loving music and the people's simplicity and created the radio program called the "Grand Ole Opry."

"The principle appeal of the Opry is a homey one. It sends forth the aroma of bacon and eggs frying on the kitchen stove on a bright spring morning. That aroma is welcomed all the way from Maine to California," Hay is quoted as saying on the Country Music Hall (CMH) of Fame Web site, www.countrymusichalloffame.com.

The name of Solemn Old Judge was pinned to Hay when his career started in 1921, according to CMH. Hay wrote a humor column for a newspaper about a night court under the pen name, "Solemn Old Judge." When the newspaper changed its medium to radio, WMC, Hay became its radio announcer.

Hay then moved to Chicago's WLS radio station in 1924 to become the station's chief announcer. WLS was the station that captured the terror of the Hindenburg incident in 1937 where a German airship filled with hydrogen went up in flames.

Hay was announcer for "WLS Unlimited," where he would blow his whistle and announce destinations during the radio program along with his feathered friend, Static, according to the station's historical Web site, www.wlshistory.com.

Static was a double yellow-headed Mexican parrot that could speak English. Static had the run-of-the-mill at the station and was even heard squawking in the background of other radio programs.

Hay also announced for WLS National Barn Dance, radio program that would bring in live mountain music.

"In September 1924, Hay was awarded the title of 'World's Best Radio Announcer' by Radio Digest Illustrated. In addition to the accolades, he also received a 14 carat gold trophy at a ceremony in New York City," according to the WLS history Web site.

In 1925, Hay worked for WSM in Nashville, Tenn., as its first producer and chief announcer. He soon started up WSM's Barn Dance program, which was a hit for rural music listeners.

In 1927, according to CMH, "Hay came on the air after NBC's classical music show and announced, 'for the past hour we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera, but from now on we will present 'The Grand Ole Opry.' The listening audience loved it and the name stuck."

"Reflections in the Spring," a play by local writer Martha Cash Bennett recreates Hay's visit to Mammoth Spring in 1919 while he was writing for a newspaper. Hay was there to report on a WWI veteran at the Old Soldiers' Reunion when he was invited to a family get-together. At the little hoedown, people sang, played fiddles and danced until they were worn out.

The play had its premiere at last year's Solemn Old Judge Day event and will be performed this year, as well. The show will start around dusk at the Mammoth Spring State Park Pavillion. Bring your own blankets and lawn chairs.

Kids can also enjoy laughing, playing and bouncing around in blow-up play pens, as well.

An antique car show is also set for Saturday, Sept. 5.

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