In the small mountain community of Spruce Pine, just northeast of Asheville, a piece of America’s past is being restored: the Carolina Theatre. Built in 1937, the theater’s grand, neon-decorated marquee jutted out prominently over the city sidewalk. By the late 1940s, the Carolina Theatre was home to the nationally recognized Carolina Barn Dance, which featured live performances of country music and comedy by local and regionally known performers. From 1949 until 1954, the Carolina Barn Dance was broadcast by radio to every state in the nation except Washington.
As the show’s popularity grew, just about everybody who became anybody in country music performed on the Carolina Theatre stage: Patsy Cline, Bill Monroe, Hank Snow, Sonny James, to name just a few. The Carolina Barn Dance show ended sometime in the mid 1950s, probably due to the rise in television’s popularity.
In 2004 the Carolina Theatre Preservation Association, Inc. was created, and fundraising events have been hosted ever since in efforts to restore the theatre to its former glory. Executive Director Melissa Graham says, “We are very fortunate to have made the progress that we have in restoring the theater, and are delighted at the continued support in its preservation. We have a long road ahead, but will be dancing and grooving all the way!”
From a recent performance by award-winning bluegrass group the Steep Canyon Rangers to comedy, plays, clogging and more, the Carolina Theatre is once again a community fine-arts center for all to enjoy. Info: www.thecarolinabarndance.org or 766-5525.