1010OPRY-JoshTurnerListen to comments by country singer Josh Turner, backstage at the reopening of the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tenn.
1010OPRY-MartyStuartandConnieSmithListen to comments by country singers Marty Stuart, official "ambassador" for the Grand Ole Opry, and his wife, Connie Smith, backstage at the reopening of the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tenn.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The country music institution that is the Grand Ole Opry didn't skip a beat — or a show — when a May flood in Middle Tennessee destroyed its home, along with the homes of thousands of Nashville residents.
On Sept. 28, the Opry returned to a newly refurbished Grand Ole Opry House that embodies the 85-year-old show's tradition of bridging the past and the future of country music.
"We're very proud to say that the grand lady just got a little more grand," Opry president Steve Buchanan said in a press conference before the show.
"The whole flood is about looking for the silver lining in this, because it was such a terrible thing," said entertainer Brad Paisley, who also spoke at the press conference.
"And there are certainly places where you can see the silver lining in what happened ... probably nowhere as obviously as through those doors right there and backstage and out in the Opry House itself."
Perhaps the most treasured Opry heirloom, the 6-foot circle of oak flooring taken from the Ryman Auditorium when the Opry moved to its new facility in 1974, sits front and center on the stage surrounded by new, dark teak planks.
The circle was carefully refurbished and reinstalled on the stage in August by Paisley and longtime Opry member Little Jimmy Dickens.
High definition screens flank each side of the stage and one hangs in the center, allowing fans in the cheap seats to get a better view. Backstage, 18 themed dressing rooms commemorate Opry icons, including Minnie Pearl, Roy Acuff and Porter Wagoner.
For many, the Opry House's reopening signifies the resilience of country music.
"It's an expression of how strong we are as a family and as an institution. We're not going to let anything keep us down," entertainer Josh Turner said backstage before the show.
"The flood destroyed the Opry House. It didn't destroy the Opry. The Opry is a group of people. It's a style of music, and that's something that's going to live on forever, I think."
Opry member Marty Stuart said a visit to the Opry House should be on every American's must-see list.
"As an American citizen, there is a checklist that all of us Americans should do," said Stuart. "Things and places we should experience and see and do, and the Grand Ole Opry is one of them, especially now. Come see it. There's something for everybody."
For the Opry's comeback show, the lineup included duets by seasoned Opry stars and shining newer ones, including performances by Dickens, Paisley, Turner, Lorrie Morgan, Connie Smith and Martina McBride.
Trace Adkins and Blake Shelton took the stage to sing their collaboration, "Hillbilly Bone," before the show was interrupted with a "tweet."
Shelton, who is an avid Twitter user, got an invitation via Twitter — delivered by Adkins — to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, an honor bestowed on a blessed few.
"I know a lot of guys that want this as bad as I have wanted it and, uh ... forget them, for now," Shelton joked when he accepted the invitation.
"This moment right here is, hands down, the highlight of my career. Thank y'all so much."
For more information on upcoming shows and events at the Grand Ole Opry House, call 800-733-6779 or go to its website.