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Commissioners Court Commemorates Civic Center's 41st Year By Recognizing Board Members

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Hopkins County Commissioners Court commemorated the 41 years of service of the Hopkins County Regional Center by honoring the dedication of the members of the first governing board who remain active citizens in our community.

“It is an honor for the court to honor them,” County Judge Robert Newsom said Monday.

Newsom noted that the Civic Center came into existence due to the combined enthusiasm, interests and efforts of not only the city, school district and county, but numerous volunteers, business people and individuals working together.

Discussion of financing for a proposed new livestock show barn and Civic Center had begun in February of 1974, according to county records. The city and county agreed a new facility was needed in order to host livestock shows.

On April 3, 1975, Gordon Wilson was approved by the Commissioners Court as the architect for a $1,391,283 Civic Center and livestock arena construction project.

Fundraising campaigns for the complex resulted in donations by several companies, local business owners and individuals; some citizens also donated cattle, Newsom read from a proclamation at the Jan. 27, 2020 Commissioners Court meeting.

On Nov. 1, 1976, Reb. Sam B. Hall Jr. announced approval of a $694,500 Economic Development Administration grant, according to the proclamation.

“Through the visionary leadership of its Charter Board and subsequent Planning Committee, The Hopkins County Regional Civic Center began to surface as a reality with its groundbreaking ceremony, sub-grade work completed by the City of Sulphur Springs followed by the pouring of support piers in June 1977,” Newsom said.

The high school’s desire for a new auditorium was also incorporated into the Civic Center vision.

On Nov. 13, 1978, Gary Odom, Paul Herschler, Patsy Johnson, Bobby Price, Rod Henderson, Abe Dial, Lynda Hager, Bruce Fielden, W.S. Long, Guy Mayes and Carrol Nichols were recommended during Commissioners court as the Civic Center Board members. They began serving as the First Governing Board for the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center on January 1, 1979, the day the Civic Center opened its doors.

Since it’s inception, the three-unit facility has continued to host annual livestock shows, regional conferences, festive events, concerts (some featuring renown musical artists), rodeos and rodeo championships.

(Front, from left) Gary Odom, Lynda Hager and Patsy Johnson, Lonnie Fox) and (back) Hopkins County Commissioners Court

While many of the member have passed away or moved on, “outstanding Hopkins County citizens Gary Odom, Patsy Johnson and Lynda Hager continue to serve their friends, neighbors and visitors in Hopkins County,” Newsom said.

“Not only did they serve then, but they serve today. That’s the kind of citizens that make Hopkins County a great place to be at,” Newsom said.

Civic Center Manager Lonnie Fox presented Hager, Johnson and Odom with plaques “In appreciation for being one of the original members of the governing board of directors of Hopkins County Civic Center, January 1, 1979.”

“These three and nine others jump started us back January 1979. We are glad y’all got us going,” Fox said.

“I came here to Hopkins County in 1978. I came to Sulphur Springs, went to work for the phone company and said this is somewhere I want to raise my family. I been around most of y’all my whole time here in Hopkins County, and we appreciate your service,” Precinct 1 Commissioner Mickey Barker said.

“I’m young enough to say that I don’t remember Hopkins County without the Civic Center, although I was born. I can see where it plays a vital role and I think Hopkins County is really lucky to have the Civic Center. I appreciate yall playing a part in getting it done for us,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Anglin said.

“I am old enough and can remember. I was in Young Farmers Organization about that that time. I can remember when we started talking about raising money to build that Civic Center and new show barn. Well, it took people like this spearheading it, getting together, was raised over a million dollars. Through their efforts and a lot of other efforts, groups and organizations that got out and solicited those funds and with the help of that grant it’s a reality now. I don’t know what that facility would be worth now, but it’s worth a whole lot more to our community than just dollar amounts,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Wade Bartley said.

“You are exactly right,” Fox said of the value of the facility.

“Thanks to y’all for getting that started,” Bartley told Johnson, Hager and Odom.

“I would like to thank you too. I’ve enjoyed a lot of events out there over the years myself. But, I always think of Gary as a dairyman., That’s how I’ve always known him, I guess. We really appreciate you ,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Price.

“There’s just been lots of entities and businesses through the years too. While we were running concession stands, everybody loved it. We did enjoy it. I still have people that come up to me and say, ‘I just miss that. I saw so many people in the concession stands out there. We all loved it. It was a big part of so many people because they were all volunteers so what we did was all profit. That’s how we were able to bring in big productions,” Hager said.

“What she’s talking about, this board back then, they were the definition of a working board. They ran the concession stand at every event. They sold tickets at rodeos and all that,” Fox said.

Hager noted they also sold concerts at big concerts toos, including one “no show” event. She said very few people asked for their money back

Anglin recalled as a boy of 9 or 10 seeing George Strait play at the Civic Center. In fact, Strait played at the Civic Center twice, it was noted at the meeting.

Hager credited Rod Henderson for knowing how to pick and get acts in to play at the Civic Center, which she said how they made a lot money at the facility years ago.

Odom said operating the Civic Center wasn’t without it’s challenges one of the early issues for the Civic Center was seating in the Auditorium.

“You can’t have an Auditorium and just have people standing. You’ve got to have a place to be seated,” Odom said. “I think Walter Helm had a great deal to do with the seating in the Auditorium. He made a deal — he was always making a deal.”

A water problem also had to be addressed. Later, air conditioning and heating was needed in the Livestock Arena.

Hager and Johnson noted that there also were no curtains initially. The facility started as a shell. Once constructed, they began working to equip it.

“But all of those things that happened was the result of the community that came together and got it done,” Odom said. “We were just lucky enough to have somebody nominate us to be there in the beginning.”

Odom also credited to past and present Commissioners Court members as the “driving force that kept this thing going, kept it funded,” and offered thanks to them for that.

“Thank you,” Newsom said.

“I told Lonnie, it’s been so rewarding to see the continued good leadership and continued prosperity of the Civic Center. It’s just worth it all, because in those days it was scary, wasn’t it?” Patsy Johnson said “It’s just so good to sit back and let you guys do.”

Civic Center Board members

Newsom also recognized current board members by asking them to stand for recognition and applause for their continue service at the Civic Center.

“We’re going to go full circle. These are the guys that started it back in 1979. Dan Froneberger is the president of the board now. He’s here. We’ve got a few — Martha’s one of them, Danny [Evans] is one of them — that are coming back on the board for a second term. Then we’ve got one that’s going off the board, and I’d like to recognize him. It’s David Watson,” Fox said.

Watson has been on the board for the last three years. Fox said Watson as helpful in shedding light on what he needed to be doing when he first assumed the road of Civic Center manager.

Fox presented Watson with a plaque “in appreciation for three years of dedicated service, from the Hopkins County Civic Center Board.”

“I would recommend the board. It’s a great board. I did learn a lot. I’m very blessed to be the Dairy Festival representative. It’s how I got on the board. I lived here my whole life. I thought I know a lot about the Civic Center and a lot of events out there. When you serve on the board you really realize how much that facility is being used each and every day. It’s a great place in this community. Thank all of yall for all that you do,” Watson said.

“Thanks David, thank you for your service,” Newsom said.

Davis Watson
David Watson

“What you just saw was a demonstration of why we came to Sulphur Springs and also why we’re going to stay. This is a growing, going community. We’ve enjoyed every minute of it. We did some research and we have found that things just like this, and [Hopkins County Fire] Chief Andy Endsley and the Brinker fire department and some other things that have gone on have been extremely important to us personally as well as to this community,” said Mack Pitts, a resident of Precinct 2 and Brinker resident, during the public forum portion of the meeting.

Pitts told Anglin he’s doing a good job, and thanked him for responding to a request from Precinct 2 resident about clearing some of the debris from the roadways.

“Again, that’s an attraction for people coming to this county and it’s also a reason to stay,” Pitts concluded.

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Author: Faith Huffman

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