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2009: Loosen the reins…have some fun

Covington County area residents have plenty to look forward to in 2009, local sources involved in presenting and promoting entertainment and art venues said.

This week, the World Famous Lipizzaner Stallions will appear at the Arena; later this month the Covington Arts Council will present Celtic Crossroads; Rattlesnake Rodeo organizers have named this year’s headline entertainment; and there’s a hint of a country music concert at the Arena.

Paula Harr, the executive director of both the Covington Arts Council and ACT I Community Theater, explained how lucky Covington County was to be home to such a diverse arts community.

“Andalusia — and Covington County — is so blessed to have the diversity of the arts,” Harr said. “There really is something in all the disciplines — theater, dance, the fine arts of all mediums. We bring in wonderful professional shows and have an extraordinary amount of local talent.

“There’s a lot to see and do here, which is extremely unusual when you consider that our county is considered to be a rural, underserved area as far as the arts go when considered to bigger areas in our state,” she said. “It is truly amazing the quality we have here. People who move here from the bigger areas are always blown away by what we can provide here. There’s always something to do.”

Meryanne Murphy, Andalusia Academy of Ballet director, said one of the biggest things people should look forward is the development of the city’s cultural arts center.

“This building and what it represents will be such a special thing for our community,” Murphy said. “It was a concept that has been in discussion for nearly eight years now, and Andalusia is home to such a wonderful arts community; the building would be a fantastic place for each of them to call home.”

Murphy, whose Academy recently announced plans to construct a new building behind the old Church Street School that officials hope will become the new cultural arts building, said she has been approached about locating inside the building instead of behind it.

And while no official decision has been made yet, Murphy said, “We’re discussing it and I hope the entire idea is one that works. It’s very much needed for all the arts.”

Some of the events on the horizon for 2009 include headliner act Jeff Bates at Opp’s Rattlesnake Rodeo, more than 22 events at the Covington Center Arena, CAC-sponsored shows like Bye-Bye Birdie and Celtic Crossroads and fine art presentations at the Lower Alabama Arts Center and Lurleen B. Wallace Community College’s art department.

Covington Center Arena

There are 22 events ranging from the annual Bluegrass Festival and Kiwanis Covington County Fair to a variety of horse shows, including the world-famous Lipizzaner Stallions, on the 2009 calendar of events.

Manager Tony Wells said he believes this will be the best year ever for the arena.

“We’re even going to attempt doing a concert this year,” Wells said. “Can’t tell you who it is yet. We’re still in negotiations, but I can say it’s a country act and I think people will really enjoy it.”

The Lipizzaner Stallions will appear Jan. 8; and the Covington Bluegrass Festival is set for Jan. 29-31.

Covington Arts Council, ACT I

Celtic Crossroads, the third of four CAC productions for the 2008-2009 season, is set to take the stage Jan. 28. Described as a “simply wonderful experience,” theatergoers will be dazzled with a 20-instrument musical and dancing extravaganza straight from Ireland. Celtic Crossroads presents Irish music like never before, set to do to Irish music what Riverdance has done to Irish dance.

Next on the schedule is the Broadway musical Bye-Bye, Birdie, the winner of eight Tony Awards including Best Musical.

ACT I will feature “Lying in State,” a political comedy, in April.

Opp’s Rattlesnake Rodeo

Channel-Lee Stadium should be packed in April after Opp Mayor H.D. Edgar said this year’s headliner will be RCA recording artist Jeff Bates. Bates is best known for hits like, “The Love Song,” “I Wanna Make You Cry” and “Long Slow Kisses.” Also on the line up are Anna Garrett and J.B. Roberts.

“We’re excited about the rodeo,” Edgar said. “We’re going to be able to hold tickets at $5, and we’re happy about that.”

The annual rodeo is set for April 4 and 5.

Andalusia Ballet

Feb. 8 — Valentine Dances at the Dixon Center featuring solo work of company dancers.

Feb. 28 to Mar. 1 — Sleeping Beauty with Montgomery Ballet and Academy dancers.

May 22 and 23 — Spring Showcase.

June 8-19 — Summer Intensive workshop featuring Ellie Lazar.

June 19 — Evening of Dance, a culmination of the summer intensive workshop.