More than $4 million in renovations to a nearly century-old building in downtown Philadelphia (Mississippi) will mark the beginning of a major change for this city of about 7,100 people, supporters of the project said Wednesday.Dr. Dan Barnard, executive director for the 500-seat Ellis Theatre on Byrd Avenue, said the renovation will complete Phase 1 of a larger $40 million project called the Congress of Country Music being spearheaded by country music superstar, and Philadelphia native, Marty Stuart.

“It is spectacular, incredible work,” Barnard said of the theatre rehabilitation, which was overseen by Yates Construction. Included is a new roof, new seating, new HVAC and electrical systems, new plumbing, a new fire protection system, all new audio-visual equipment, and more. There will also be three box seat sections on the north wall that had once been used in Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center, Bernard said.

A four-night Grand Opening is set to kick off on Dec. 8 with performances by Marty Stuart and Connie Smith. On Dec. 9 Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder will perform, followed by Vince Gill on Dec. 10 and The Gaither Vocal Band on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 11.

An artist’s rendering illustrates the proposed architectural features for the proposed $40 million Congress of Country Music being spearheaded by country music superstar and Mississippi native Marty Stuart.

Other upcoming events include a family-oriented Christmas show titled, “A Very Electric Christmas,” by Lightwire Theater on Dec. 18. 

On Jan. 6, Old Crow Medicine Show will perform. Then, on Feb. 4 a screening of “Field of Dreams,” with guest host Alicia Malone of Turner Classic Movies is scheduled. 

Lightwire also returns in 2023 with a daytime educational series called “The Tortoise and Hare — The Next Generation.” That series is sponsored in part by a grant from the Phil Hardin Foundation.

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