Season 2, Episode 10
Our guest on this episode of the Life in the Carolinas podcast is Stan Lowery, Executive Director of The Don Gibson Theatre in Shelby, North Carolina. Originally a State Theater movie house which opened in 1939, this theater welcomed patrons to movies such as Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, and The Jungle Book before falling on hard times in the 1980s when it had to close its doors. In 2007, a group of concerned citizens came up with the idea to open The Don Gibson Theatre in the old State Theater location and breathe new life into the area by boosting tourism in Shelby, a town that had historically been known for textile production.
Over the course of the next 2 years, a nonprofit created for this purpose and entities in the public sector collaborated to raise $3.5 million for the revitalization of the old theater and the creation of The Don Gibson Theatre’s infrastructure. The Don Gibson Theatre officially opened in November of 2009, and they host events 160 days per year, including 30-35 national acts and 60 acts who rent out the theatre. The Don Gibson Theatre and its sister venue The Earl Scruggs Center in downtown Shelby attract approximately 30,000 visitors per year and in the past 10 years guests have come from all 50 states and 18 countries.
Stan has had a front-row seat to all of the community involvement and the family atmosphere that has been created in the cozy 400-seat auditorium. From his initial interactions with Don Gibson’s widow about the potential opening of the theatre many years ago, to the committee collaboration, to the securing of the talent for the theatre’s shows, he has been so encouraged by the hard work towards the common goal of entertaining the community and attracting visitors to the area. As a result of the increased tourism, many new restaurants and hotels have opened, and Shelby has seen an influx of new residents.
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