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November 15, 2020

In Corinth, The Show Must Go On

By Michelle Fishburne

The Olympic Games and New York City’s Broadway shows were among the thousands of age-old traditions canceled all over the world in 2020 due to the pandemic. When the pandemic hit in March, Corinthians worried about what would happen to some of their most beloved traditions, including the Coke 10K, plays at Corinth Theatre-Arts and Corinth’s downtown Christmas celebration.

The Coke 10K has been held on the first weekend in May every year for 

38 years. Race director Mona Lisa Grady and her son were away at a baseball tournament in March when it became clear the U.S. was heading toward lockdowns. “We were getting back to the hotel room, and it was all over the news,” Grady said. “Then a newspaper reporter from here in Corinth called me and said, ‘What are y'all gonna do about the Coke 10K?’ I said, ‘I don't know, but we're gonna have a race. That's all I know.’”

Registration for the race had been open since November and as of March, 1,000 people had already signed up. “So we had to formulate what we were going to do,” explained Coke 10K’s founder, Kenneth Williams. “In July, we announced we were going to have a virtual race.”


The race was a huge success, with 1,250 runners from more than 30 states and even from outside the U.S. “To show their friends that they had done it, they took photos along the way and posted them on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and so forth,” said Williams. “The most distant participant ran the race at the Garden of Versailles. The 2020 Coke 10K turned out to be a social media bonanza.”

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“The show must go on” spirit also was on display in Corinth at the community’s beloved Theatre-Arts playhouse. “2020 was shaping up to be the best year Corinth Theatre-Arts has had in our entire 51-year history. Hands-down our best year, far and away,” explained Josh Steen, the organization’s Resident Artist Director.


Then everything stopped for a moment when the news of COVID hit. “I told my team and my board, ‘We have to reinvent ourselves right now,’” Steen noted, “So we didn’t stop.” Steel Magnolias continued its successful run, the Frozen Jr. rehearsals moved from in-person to online, and arrangements to keep the audience and the actors safe were put in place.


Steen was especially passionate about ensuring that the students in the Frozen Jr. cast had their opportunity to perform. “We immediately switched to online rehearsal.” Steen explained, “And I said in our first meeting, ‘We don't know when the show is going to be, but we're going to keep doing the show.’ And that’s what we did.”


Corinth Theatre-Arts had a contractual limit of ten shows for Frozen Jr. and Steen originally planned on doing eight. “We thought, ‘Well, we contractually can do 10 shows, but we’ll do eight and see how it goes. We'll do social distancing. We'll limit ticket sales, we'll do this, we'll do that.’ And we sold out the run of the show. We never sold a ticket at the door. It was all pre-sold, pre-sold out the whole show. All ten shows.”


This same determined spirit in Corinth’s downtown leaders, who are unwavering in their goal to deliver a great downtown Christmas experience this year. Corinth’s downtown is known for its Christmas lights, all 9,000 of them, that can be seen all the way from Highway 72, beckoning visitors to come enjoy the holidays in Corinth’s shops and restaurants.


“Since 2020 has been, well, 2020, we decided we needed to do something extra for downtown this year,” said Christy Burns, Executive Director of the Corinth Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, “So Tammi Frazier, Emily Steen, Angela Avent and I have been getting up on top of those buildings and we’re running 4,000 more lights. So there will be 13,000 total! We may not be able to have a tree lighting party, but we will have lights, lights, lights for all those shoppers and restaurant-hoppers as they go about their holiday celebrations. Not even 2020 and the Grinch can stop us.”


In Corinth, it is clear that “the show must go on” even during a pandemic.

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