NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Grand Ole Opry has ended its itinerant ways and returned home.
A host of country music's enduring legends joined some of today's biggest names on stage Tuesday night to kick off the "Country Comes Home" celebration. They began with a stirring rendition of "Will The Circle Be Unbroken?" as the curtain rose at the Opry house for the first time since the May flood damaged the building.
The nation's longest running live radio program never missed a beat, moving around town to venues such as the Ryman Auditorium and War Memorial Auditorium, as workers feverishly repaired the Opry house, the show's home since 1974.
"I think the flood goes completely unnoticed if this building's not underwater," Brad Paisley said in a news conference before the show. "I think everybody in the country goes, 'Yeah, there's another flood,' if this doesn't happen. ... It's completely metaphorical in it's destruction as it is in it's rebirth."
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The Opry's stage sat under nearly four feet of water at the flood's height in early May. A monthslong restoration project cleaned the building and replaced the stage, dressing rooms and audience seating.
The famed circle of wood on stage from the Opry's original home at the Ryman Auditorium was restored and returned last month.
That's where Paisley and Little Jimmy Dickens kicked things off Tuesday night. They were joined on stage by dozens of longtime Opry members, including the ailing Charlie Louvin, who has pancreatic cancer, and Jeannie Seely, who lost her home in the flood.
Whispering Bill Anderson was up next.
"It's only fitting," Anderson told the near-capacity crowd. "Back in May, I sang the last song the night before the floods hit."
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