NEWPORT—It was a brief but moving ceremony.

On Sunday, Sept. 28, several dozen people, most of whom were Cocke County High School alumni, gathered at the school to celebrate the opening of the school’s newly renovated and upgraded auditorium.

The event culminated a project began nearly three years ago as part of the school’s celebration of its centennial year. CCHS Assistant Principal Nancy Brawley, who chaired that event, broached the idea of a complete overhaul and modernization of the auditorium as a lasting tribute to the school’s landmark year.

Over half a million dollars has been raised to bring the project to fruition. With donations ranging from just a few dollars to grants of several thousand dollars, the fund slowly but surely grew.

Sunday’s guests were awestruck at the beautiful end product. Now completely handicap accessible, with a ramp leading to the stage itself, the auditorium features up-to-the-minute lighting and sound, new seats and carpeted aisles, acoustically correct walls, and a stage the envy of many a Broadway theatre.

After a period in which visitors could examine the auditorium, Cocke County Director of Schools Manney Moore cut the ribbon to officially dedicate the auditorium. Joining him on the stage were Dr. Ken Johnson, Jimmy Stokely, and Darla Morgan, members of the Cocke County Board of Education, CCHS teacher and CLB Chair Dr. Clay Blazer, CCHS Principal Gail Burchette, Cocke County Partnership President Lucas Graham, Chamber of Commerce Director Lynn Ramsey, and Brawley.

After the ribbon was cut, the curtain opened to reveal members of the CCHS Choir, who, under the direction of Amanda Lovell Short, sang “The Alma Mater.”

Dr. Ken Johnson, chairman of the school board, presented Brawley with a bouquet of red roses and praised her leadership in the project.

The audience also enjoyed a brief video filmed by Robbie Mathis.

A coming production in the auditorium will be “Annie,” presented by the Newport Theatre Guild in November. Loretta Kickliter, who will portray the title character in the musical, delighted Sunday’s audience with the song “Tomorrow.”

Many of the new seated were sponsored in honor or in memory of people by individual classes. These have brass plaques with the names of those honored. In her remarks, Brawley called attention to the Class of 1947, whose surviving members each contributed. She also announced that the CCHS Class of 1969’s donation of $5,500 was the largest from a single class and purchased ten and a half seats.

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