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|Mickey Gilley, Arcade back in the spotlight|
Ferriday icons Mickey Gilley and Jim Brown joined a host of state and local leaders for the ribbon cutting of the Arcade Theater next to the Delta Music Museum on March 12 in Ferriday.
Secretary of State Jay Dardenne cut the ribbon to officially open the theater and Gilley joined Easy Eddie and the Party Rockers that night in the first performance in the theater.
"I think it's great," Gilley said. "I never thought I would see anything like this in Ferriday. But I'm seeing it now. It's a thrill to be back. The only thing is I miss my mom and dad. But this is terrific. I am honored to be a part of it. It's a pleasure to be at this site. Of course at my age, it's a pleasure to be anywhere."
The rebuilt arcade is a 6,500 sq. ft. building. and the project cost close to $1 million. It is being funded by the Secretary of State's office.
The new building is multi-functional and includes a professional sound stage and auditorium with a seating capacity of close to 300.
The facility will be a performing arts center and a screen and high-tech equipment will be included for movies. There will be exhibits in the lobby.
The old Arcade sign was saved when the walls of the old building were torn down in January and is on the new building.
The Arcade Theater was built in 1926 and closed in the late 1970s. Before being bought by the state, the building was used as a pawn shop.
"My mom didn't allow me to go to movies when I was young because of my religion," Gilley said. "But I would slip off and see a few. I can't remember the first one, but I'm sure it was a cowboy movie."
Brown was one of two Secretary of State's with Concordia Parish connections who pushed for the Delta Music Museum and the Arcade renovation.
"I always thought the Arcade would make a great concert or meeting hall," Brown said. "I raised the question back in 1980 when (Delta Music Museum Director) Judith Bingham worked for me in the Secretary of State's office. Fox (McKeithen) really took hold of the project and it picked up some steam. And then Al Ater, from around here, completed the work for the Secretary of State's office."
Brown's father-in-law, Ted Solomon, worked with the owners of the Arcade. Solomon has built theaters in Natchez, New Orleans and in other places.
Brown said he would like to see public radio stations get together and sponsor a Louisiana Hayride-type event on Saturday nights at the Arcade.
"I would love to see something like that done," he said. "I think it would really be a heckuva program. I don't think something like that is out of the question."
When Brown moved to Ferriday, he set up a law office on Second Street right around the corner from the Arcade Theater.
"The only thing I didn't like about the Arcade was the popcorn," Brown said. "I really love the white kernel and they sold the yellow kernel popcorn. I had a kitchen in my office so I would pop some popcorn there and bring a bag into the theater."
Brown said he would bring his three daughters, including CNN reporter Campbell Brown, to the Arcade to watch cartoons on Saturdays and features during the week.
"I'm a big movie buff," Brown said. "Movies have always been a big indicator of my life. All my kids grew up with the movies right there in downtown Ferriday."
Bingham said she was excited about the day's festivities.
"It was a great day," Bingham said. "Not every rural town has this type of facility and we are grateful for it. The Arcade has unlimited potential."
Bingham said Gilley was asked three weeks ago to attend the ribbon cutting.
"Not many country music stars do that," Bingham said. "Mickey cares about the museum and about Ferriday."
Bingham said she is still working on a set fee because the state requires a fee for such things as banquets, parties and concerts.
"I have three things I'm working on for monthly events," Bingham said. "One is to have a country music opry, another is that I have talked with Y.Z. Ealey in Natchez and they are very interested in helping us have something monthly and third is a Gospel concert each month."
Bingham said there will be at least one security guard at each event.
The museum director is now planning for the Delta Music Festival on April 5 in which Pete Fountain will be inducted in the Hall of Fame.
"Pete will not be able to make it, but we will have a video during the day in the Arcade of him being inducted," Bingham said.
Jason D. Williams will be the headliner for the festival.
Bingham is also working preparation for a Smithsonian exhibit that will make its way to Ferriday in November.
"I takes tons of paperwork to make something like that." she said.
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