Knoxville and Maryville have a common denominator when it comes to revitalizing their downtowns - old theaters that have been retrofitted to serve modern needs.
Just ask Bill Landry. The veteran Heartland Series host entertained more than 100 folks who gathered at the Capitol Theatre for “An Evening with Bill Landry.” The dinner show raised more than $3,000 for the Downtown Maryville Association.
“The event was all about Downtown Maryville rehabilitation and developing the downtown,” said Landry. “I was just glad to be part of it.”
One of the stated goals of the Downtown Maryville Association is to promote the revitalization of downtown Maryville. Landry said a thriving downtown should offer restaurants and residential components and also have an entertainment component.
Landry praised Palace Theater owner Steve Kaufman and Capitol Theatre owner Heath Claiborne for helping revitalize downtown with their commitments to two downtown theaters. “We talked about how far Maryville has come, and those theaters are a major a part of it,” Landry said.
Landry said related the efforts of the two families to a project he is working on in Harriman. “I’m working with the City of Harriman and Roane State to develop the Princess Theater Foundation,” he said. The Princess Theater is a 900-seat theater with a television station next door. He said the theater is major part of revitalizing downtown Harriman.
“The work Harriman is doing and the development of the two theaters to revitalize downtown Maryville is very similar. It’s a lot more advanced that what’s going on in Harriman. It’s very helpful to me to see what Maryville has done,” Landry said. “It’s funny how in both instances theaters played a crucial part in getting people to come downtown for entertainment, whether to hear Steve Kaufman and his music or go enjoy a party atmosphere at the Capitol.”
Landry said Knoxville’s downtown rebirth also has theater components, including the Regal movie theater that opened in 2007. “That’s the mainstay of every city,” he said. “Knoxville and Mayor Bill Haslam have done a wonderful job with Regal (theater).”
Landry said that throughout the evening he talked with the guests about some of the “Heartland” shows done in Blount County. One episode that came to mind for Landry was about William Orlando Garner’s photos that he took in 1903 on glass plates.
“Loraine B. Smith and Dr. Elgin P. Kintner developed them into a book, ‘Blount County Remembered: The 1890s Photography of W. O. Garner,’” he said. “It’s a wonderful record of Blount County at the turn of the century.”
Landry said the evening was a good time to see old acquaintances. “We got to see some good friends and people in Maryville we have worked with. We had a good food and shared ‘Heartland’ tales,” he said.
Downtown Maryville Association member and Capitol Theatre co-owner Benita Claiborne chaired the spring event. She said Landry did a good job of showcasing what downtown Maryville has to offer.
“Bill Landry was certainly very entertaining, and we were happy with the commentary and history Maryville City Manager Greg McClain shared,” Claiborne said. “Greg did a fabulous job of bringing the history of downtown Maryville to life.”
Landry said he enjoyed working with the Claibornes. “It is a wonderful theater. I’ve seen very few theaters that had the technical capability the Capitol does,” he said.
Claiborne invited residents to join and work with the association. “Downtown is the heart of the community. Anybody and everybody interested in the downtown is welcome to join and participate in what the Downtown Maryville Association is doing.” To learn more about the Downtown Maryville Association, visit the website at www.downtownmaryville.com or contact Terry Gillingham, president, at terryG@downtownmaryville.com.