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Harris, Clark shows/events ran their course; legacy left of helping local studentsPosted Friday, April 8, 2011, at 10:52 AM
There's an idiom "run its course," which means "to continue until finished."
That's a description of what happened this week when organizers, committee members and those on the Greene County Foundation Board of Directors decided the successful sponsorship of the Greene County Foundation Festival was over -- at least for now.
The Roy Clark and Friends Show -- that followed the original Phil Harris and Alice Faye Show -- won't take the stage on the first Saturday after Memorial Day as it has for 31 years.
Nor will the Friends of Phil Harris Golf Tournament tee off this year and the Friday night Celebrity Dinner at the Greene County Shrine Club that served as a welcome gathering and show preview for the show entertainers and visiting golfers has also been canceled.
What started out by organizers and hometown favorite the late Phil Harris as a one-year show in 1979 to raise money for college scholarships has had a good run. No one can deny that.
Over the years, hundreds of top-quality, award-winning musicians; television and movie stars; former professional baseball (some who are enshrined in the coveted Major League Baseball Hall of Fame) and NFL football players; state-level politicians; state university administrators, coaches and athletes; and even former astronaut Neal Armstrong -- the first man to walk on the moon -- played in the golf tournament, attended the entertainment show.
The idea for the "big weekend" was the brainchild of Don Steward, an optometrist from Lyons, who soon enlisted the loyal allegiance of former Phil Harris Golf Course pro Ted Bishop, Linton businessman John Wilkes and others.
The first show took the stage in June 1979.
I've been told that Phil Harris simply showed up at the Linton gym, sat on a wooden stool and talked to the audience, told a few jokes and sang a few old favorites that first show.
He got a standing ovation.
That's how it all began.
Phil died in 1995, but the festival events didn't stop.
Harris' good friend, country music legend Roy Clark, stepped in to help the cause.
Roy, with his homespun charisma, humor, and extraordinary musical talent, became the show headliner and money continued to be raised for our kids to go to college.
The demise of this year's show came a couple weeks back when Clark informed the committee that he wouldn't be a part of the 2011 show because of a commitment to film a television special honoring those who appeared on the old Hee-Haw series that he hosted for 25 years.
The logistics of getting the show's survivors together for a weekend was a difficult task and unfortunately for our community, the only available date was the same weekend as the festival.
Efforts were made to secure other headline entertainers to fill in for Roy, but when you ask people to come and perform free of charge just to help out a scholarship fund, the list of available performers grows shorter these days.
It's no secret that ticket sales and people attending the show and playing in the golf tourney had gone down in recent years for a variety of reasons that we won't explore now other than to say, the luster the festival weekend once had was dwindling.
There just weren't as many local folks willing to shell out the money to buy the tickets as it once was.
Those factors attributed to the Greene County Foundation's decision to pull out as a sponsor.
Roy may make the decision next year or in future years to come back for some kind of show in Linton, but time will tell.
The golden lining in all of this is that the organizers had the forethought to make sure the local kids would still benefit from the efforts of the performers, golfers and volunteers long after the show finally stopped.
Two endowed funds are established through Phil Harris Charities and the Greene County Foundation, which total nearly $600,000 combined that will go on into perpetuity to provide the principal base to draw interest, which is then used to award annual scholarship to Greene County high school graduates.
That was the purpose of the show and the golf tournament when it started and it's a great tribute to know that those who had the vision to start the event had the same vision to see that its benefits will continue to be a reality long after the original show stops.
This year, there won't be a Festival Show per say, but there is an effort by a new sponsor, Linton Community Development Corporation, the non-profit manager and operator of the Linton Music Festival, to put on a show featuring a headliner group or individual along with some local acts.
We should know more in the next week or two about what is planned and how the money raised will be used in the community.
Nick is assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at 847-4487 or 1-800-947-4487; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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