Cultural Center’s first musical event winds up in the black
Bruce Alsobrook | News-Telegram Editor

Oct. 12, 2005 -- The first musical event at the South Sulphur Regional Development Association’s ongoing project at Cooper Lake may have involved “Stra-a-ange Bedfellows,” but the arrangement ended up quite cozy.

A healthy crowd of people who weren’t deterred by chilly weather Saturday night helped the event turn a small profit, which was a bit of a surprise to organizers.

�We initially anticipated a shortfall of several hundred dollars,� said Tom Stewart, chairmen of the committee in charge of the concert sponsored jointly by SSRDA and the Sulphur Springs Symphony League.

Stewart said they had to rely on the directors of the two organizations to generate interest and promote ticket sales for the concert, and it worked out better than expected.

�In the end, they did an excellent job, and the additional tickets covered our costs and put us in the black,� Stewart said.

�The concert presented contrasting music styles -- hence the �Stra-a-ange Bedfellows� moniker -- with Swing Street, a Greenville group specializing in a 40s-style �Big Band� sound, playing half the bill, along with Fat Tuesday, a rockin� band from Sulphur Springs, on the other half.

Despite the chilly weather -- 50 degree temperatures had spectators huddling under blankets and pulling out their “hoodies” -- as many as 200 people showed up for the inaugural concert at the site of the Cooper Lake Cultural Center.

It was a milestone event for SSRDA, which was incorporated 11 years ago with the mission of constructing a cultural complex on 120 acres at Cooper Lake. Some federal grants have helped with infrastructure improvements, but the operation of the center is being done with no tax dollars. Stewart said the association was willing to risk losing a little money to stage its inaugural event. 

�Our goal was to have an event. SSRDA was incorporated in 1994, and one event in 11 years seems kind of slow,� he said.

But their first concert has proven that the site can serve as an appropriate venue for future events, and Stewart said they expect more to come in the future.

The expected construction of an amphitheatre -- one of the focal points in the cultural center’s long-term plans -- would only make the site more attractive for concerts, plays and other shows.

Until then a portable 800 square foot stage (it was used by Willie Nelson for a big outdoor concert in 2004) is more than adequate for productions.

�We have a stage that can be used without any alterations, so we�re in a position to have more events,� said Stewart. �We will try to stage another event in the spring.�

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