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Kentucky’s Unmistakable Music

Paramount Arts Center


In 1971, the future didn’t look good for the Paramount Arts Center. The theater was built in 1931 as one of the first transitional theaters to show “talking pictures,” but its gorgeous Art Deco designs were hidden under layers of paint, dust and an oily residue from the coal furnace used to heat the theater.

However, not long after its 1971 closing, a foundation was formed to save the theater and return it to its former grandeur. Today, groups can see the theater much as it appeared on its opening night, with sizable copper and glass chandeliers, gold-leaf details and decorative murals of 16th-century theatrical characters.

“The way the building has been restored is just beautiful,” said Melanie Cornelison-Jannotta, artistic director of the Paramount Arts Center. “You can see Art Deco decorations throughout the whole building. The experience feels as if you were going back in time and watching a show from the 1930s. Yet we have high-tech equipment that allows us to bring in so many performances that we weren’t able to do before the renovation.”

Groups can arrange an architectural tour of the building to hear the stories behind its Aztec, Egyptian and geometric designs. Afterward, groups can watch a performance in the intimate 1,421-seat theater. From touring Broadway productions to a local in-house theater performances, the theater features a variety of regular acts. The theater also features a regular lineup of Christian, country music, jazz and bluegrass concerts.

Staff from the Paramount Arts Center regularly accommodate groups with specialized tours and experiences. For example, ghostly tales from the historic building have led to several paranormal tours for interested groups.

Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center, Mount Vernon

Loretta Lynn’s purple sequined gown, the Osborne Brothers’ banjo and Dwight Yoakum’s skintight jeans have all been known to inspire conversation. The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum seeks to tell the stories of the state’s impressive contributions to all musical genres at Mount Vernon’s Renfro Valley, the “Country Music Capital of Kentucky.”

“I think it’s really surprising to people how many musicians, broadcasters and managers were from Kentucky,” said Avery Bradshaw, director of the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “People really do learn a lot here. One example is that two of the Backstreet Boys are from Kentucky. That’s one thing a lot of people don’t know.”

Exhibits highlight the careers of Kentucky natives Billy Ray Cyrus, the Judds, John Michael Montgomery and Rosemary Clooney, among others. Groups visiting the museum first listen to a presentation about the museum and its induction process. The museum can arrange a live music performance before groups explore the exhibits. Guides walk with the visitors to answer questions and add interesting information to exhibits. One exhibit follows a timeline of Kentucky’s evolving musical history that reaches from the 1750s to the present.

The entryway to the building once served as John Lair’s horse stables. Renovators spent time converting the structure into a museum to preserve the memory of Lair, who founded Renfro Valley when, in 1939, he began broadcasting his own radio program to promote Kentucky bluegrass music.

Nearby, the Renfro Valley Entertainment Center features regular live bluegrass, gospel and country music. Two theaters offer musical entertainment every weekend from April through December; recent acts there have included the River City Boys, David Church and Trace Adkins. The complex also houses a shopping village for music-themed and locally made items.