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FEATURE FRIDAY: South Jackson is going country next week

By Susan Campbell, Thunder Radio Feature Writer

South Jackson Goes Country (SJGC), a popular showcase of area talent for over four decades, takes place Aug. 14-16 at the South Jackson Civic Center in Tullahoma.

At the helm as director in its 41st year is Samantha Terrell-Watters, of Hillsboro, who is assuming the director position from long-time director and show originator Peggy Burton.

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Shows are set for Friday through Sunday, Aug. 14-16, with a variety of musical and comedic talent each night. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 6:30 p.m. with a patio stage event that will feature concessions. The warm-up show begins at 7 p.m. with the main show beginning at 7:30 p.m. on the main stage. Sunday’s event opens at 12:45 p.m. for concessions. The warm-up show begins at 1:30 p.m., with the main show set for 2 p.m.

The civic center is located at 404 S. Jackson St. in Tullahoma. Tickets are only available at the box office this year due to coronavirus restrictions, and the auditorium will be at half capacity.

“South Jackson is offering group sales where they are providing social distance seating for your group,” Watters said. “You will have space beside you, behind you, and in front of you for social distancing and this is something that works only by manual sales instead of through online ticketing as we have done in the past.” Other safety precautions have been put in place as well, she said.

Begun 41 years ago by Burton as a way to help raise funds for local arts, the event has continued as an annual event, Watters said. The only consistent thing in each show is the onstage live commercials for local businesses, the live band that plays all the numerous songs for the ever-changing acts/performers, and opening and closing numbers.

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“People often come for the commercials, much as folks watch the Super Bowl for the ads,” Watters said. “They are written or formulated by our local writers’ team and meant to make people laugh out loud, which is something we all desperately need in 2020. If I was asked to describe our show, I would say, ‘Imagine a local Grand Ole Opry meets Hee Haw,’ and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect.”

Although this is her first year as director, Watters has directed commercials in past shows. She has also directed children’s productions such as Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella and Robin Hood through her family’s non-profit HELPOUT Inc.

“However, being the decision maker for a show the size of South Jackson Goes Country can be daunting, especially during the trials of 2020,” she said.

“Thankfully, we have a great cast and crew of folks who are willing to tackle a challenge and move forward. I have been part of this show for 15 years now and we always say it is like having a family reunion onstage each year. While this year will see some adjustments with social distancing, we still feel truly blessed to take the stage even amongst the additional stress.”

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Several Manchester and Coffee County musicians will be performing in this weekend’s show, Watters said. Long-time performers include the Sebourn Family, Melissa Shuran as Ernestine, Deb Rackley as Adie Gruesome, Mike Sneed as Stroop Man, the Lewis Family, Greg Gressel, Curtis Hice and the Austell Family.

“We also are excited to have for the first time the Duck River Dance Company Dancers under the direction of Danelle Afflerbaugh from Manchester for our Friday and Saturday shows and we couldn’t be more thrilled,” she said.

A highlight of the show is the locally-produced commercials. “Local businesses buy ads and then we write commercials and perform them onstage,” Watters said. “This is a sought-after sponsor spot and there is often a waiting list for businesses who’d like to have a commercial onstage, especially since most of the businesses have been sponsoring the show for countless years and rarely do spots open up.”
Ticket sales are going well in spite of Covid-19 concerns, Watters said. Tickets may be purchased at the door. To find out more information, call the civic center at 931-455-5321, visit the website at www.southjackson.org, or email office@southjackson.org.

“With the strange happenings of 2020, it has been imperative for the cast and the community patrons of this annual event to carry on,” Watters said. “We could all use an opportunity to laugh right now and what better way than through the local arts? The arts make us laugh, cry, smile and feel things that we often push aside in our daily lives.

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“I am extremely thankful for the local arts houses we enjoy in Coffee County who are especially hurting right now during this time of drought due to social distancing and loss of operational funding through their monthly arts outlets. If you can, I encourage you to support the local arts through a ticket, a donation, or your time, so we can all enjoy these wonderful outlets with our children and our community for years to come.”

Tickets may be purchased at the door. To find out more information, call the civic center at 931-455-5321, visit the website at www.southjackson.org, or email office@southjackson.org.

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