Rural Heritage Center holds grand opening

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 13, 2005

They came in large numbers and didn’t want to leave. At the unveiling of the Rural Heritage Center in Thomaston Saturday people came early in droves and left late with a smile on their face.

The grand opening marked the end to tireless efforts from those running the center and the Auburn University students who made it happen.

Gayle Etheridge, Director for the Center, said the grand opening could not have gone better,

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It was wonderful,” Etheridge said. “People have told me everywhere I have gone how much they enjoyed it. I have really gotten a lot of positive feedback.”

Etheridge said everyone and everything was just right.

“We couldn’t have asked for more,” Etheridge said. “The weather was nice and I think Artur Davis said all the right things. Everything was perfect.”

The event came in with so much momentum it was hard for everyone to slow down. Etheridge said she was so excited after the event; she had trouble getting to sleep.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Etheridge said. “I talked to some of the others and they said they didn’t go to sleep until Sunday morning.”

One of the more emotional parts of the night was the unveiling of the Marie Claire Marroum Kardos Folk Art Gallery. Kardos, whose son Paul was the team leader for the project, always seemed to be around when they needed her. She served as a mother to the workers while they were away from their own and also put in plenty of hard work on her own.

Congressman Artur Davis, who was the guest of honor at the grand opening, said the center was a testament to what can be accomplished in the region when people work together.

“What we are celebrating is a building that proves what the Black Belt can do,” Davis. “I don’t think that there is any greater challenge that we have right now than to show all the doubters, all the people who are outside out region, that this part of the state is just as full as promise, just as full of energy and dynamism as Montgomery, Birmingham and any of the other parts that people hear about.”

Davis said he was proud of the region and made it his mission each day to make things better.

“I am so proud to represent 615,000, many of whom live in this part of the state,” Davis said. “Every morning when I get up I have the idea that in some way, shape or form my office and the people in my office can do something to help someone. We can do something to shine a little light on this region.”

The crowd that gathered Saturday would have been an inspiration to anyone. Davis said it was especially encouraging to him because it showed a firm belief in the future.

“When I see all of you here right now it gives me a lot of confidence,” Davis said. “It gives me a lot of optimism because it shows me that you believe.”

Davis said he hoped the center would erase some of the misconceptions about the area. He said in the future he hoped young people would choose to stay in the Blackbelt rather than leave,

“A lot of people leave Marengo County, Thomaston and the Blackbelt out of some idea that they can find a better life elsewhere,” Davis said. “The plan that I have is a very basic one. I want every child who is born in this community to feel that he or she can live the American dream here.”