Greenbo set to host Jesse Stuart event

Published 11:13 am Thursday, September 18, 2008

Kentucky’s most famous poet will be the focus of a weekend honoring him and his works.

The Greenbo State Lake Resort Park will have Jesse Stuart weekend this Friday, Saturday and Sunday with plays inspired by and about Stuart and tours of his old home.

Stuart, who was born in 1906 in Greenup County, Ky. and died in 1984 at an Ironton nursing home, was a farm boy and teacher who became a poet and author. His books and poems were centered on the Tri-State area and the people that he knew here.

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Kentucky named him poet laureate in 1954 and his book “Taps for Private Tussie” sold a million copies in two years.

This is the 27th year of the event and Cary Q. Lyle, the resort manager of the park, said it is the Jesse Stuart Foundation that keeps it going.

“Without their support, we would be able to do this every year,” Lyle said. “With Jesse Stuart being from Greenup County and the lodge being named for him, we are glad we can continue it and add to it.”

Lyle said he thinks Stuart would appreciate a festival that brings culture, music and theater to his home county.

“He was all about cultural heritage, educating the youth and educating the people,” he said. “That’s what we are trying to continue do in his name. I think he would be proud of that.”

Greenbo Lake is just a few miles from Stuart’s home on W Hollow. Events kick off Friday at 1:30 p.m. with a hike through the Jesse Stuart Nature Preserve; a 714-acre preserve contains portions of Stuart’s original farm.

At 7:30 p.m. on Friday, there will be a one-man drama, “Jesse Stuart,” which is written and portrayed by Lloyd Spears, an Elliot County attorney. The performance will be followed by a reception at 8:30 p.m. in the park’s main conference room.

On Saturday morning at 9 a.m. there will be a tour of W-Hollow, the land that inspired Stuart’s literary creations. At 1:15 p.m., there will be a tour of The Jesse Stuart Foundation in Ashland.

Saturday’s events will be topped off with an evening performance of the world premiere of “A Penny’s Worth of Character” starting at 7 p.m. at the Greenbo Amphitheatre.

The play is a family musical adapted from “A Penny’s Worth of Character,” the famous junior book by Jesse Stuart.

The play was scripted and lyrics written by James W. Rodgers, a retired University of Kentucky Theatre professor, an author, playwright and director and the original music and orchestration is by Jay Flippin, the 2006 Kentucky Artist of the Year, composer, arranger and retired music professor from Morehead State University. The puppets and production designer is Damon Farmer, Versailles, Ky.

“We’ve got some really talented folks from the region that will be a part of this,” Lyle said. “We have some really great talent in this region and we are just happy we can give them a stage.”

A children’s chorus and the choruses representing Raceland/Worthington High School and adults from the area, directed by Tom Stephens, will be on stage as part of the production. There will also be a seven-piece orchestra, under the direction of Flippin, to accompany the choruses and soloist. The actors and puppeteers are from the Greenup and Boyd County area.

“A Penny’s Worth of Character” also will be performed on Friday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the amphitheatre. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for Senior Citizens, and children 12 and under free.

Sunday is student day and teachers, with I.D., will be able to see the play for $5 and students will get in for half price.

Also throughout the weekend there will be performances of traditional mountain music, films available to watch, and expert evaluations of original editions of Stuart’s works.

“This is going to be a wonderful family event,” Lyle said.