Ninety-two years after the Scopes Trial made front-page news across the country, the famous evolution trial still generates discussion — a fact Dayton, Tenn., will capitalize on this weekend.
The 29th annual Scopes Festival celebrating "The World's Most Famous Court Trial" kicks off Friday, July 14, at the Rhea County Courthouse, around which the weekend's activities will be centered.
Friday morning, defense attorney Clarence Darrow will return to the Dayton courthouse in the form of a 7-foot-tall bronze statue that will join the statue of William Jennings Bryan installed on the courthouse lawn in 2005.
The Darrow statue is the work of Pennsylvania sculptor Zenos Frudakis. It has been cast to match the proportions of the existing Bryan statue.
"Memorializing Darrow alongside the Bryan statue will now balance the views inherent in the trial," says Frudakis, "and accurately reflect history, as well as symbolically re-create the court drama which captured the attention of the nation."
The unveiling will culminate a ceremony that begins at 9:45 a.m. Speakers will include John de Lancie, who played Q in "Star Trek: The Next Generation;" Andrew Kersten, University of Idaho-Moscow dean and author of "Clarence Darrow: American Iconoclast;" Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-presidents of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, whose membership underwrote the monument.
Friday night the first performance of "Front Page News" will be presented at 7:30 p.m. The play is performed in the same room of the courthouse where the 1925 trial was held.
The play includes dialogue from the trial transcript, retelling the trial of a county teacher charged with teaching Darwin's theory of evolution at the local high school.
"'Front Page News' captures the tension as well as the humor that surrounded the trial in 1925," says Tom Davis, festival chairman.
"Under the direction of Jim Crabtree, the cast has done a superb job of bringing to life the personalities and issues that make the Scopes Trial as relevant today as it was in 1925. This play helps us understand how a small town in rural Tennessee captured the attention of the world and asked big questions that still have not been settled."
In addition to performances of the play Friday through Sunday, Saturday's festival fun includes a classic car cruise-in, food and craft vendors and games for children of all ages.
Blacksmith Hugh Bowie of Highlander Forge in Sale Creek will demonstrate metalworking. White-oak basket maker Sue Williams of Morrison, Tenn., and her apprentice Brenda Kucharski of Spring City, Tenn., will demonstrate their folk craft.
New this year, a bluegrass festival with competitions for bands and solo instrumentalists has been added to Saturday's schedule. Music will begin at 11 a.m. Competitors will vie for more than $5,000 in cash prizes.
Additional performances of "Front Page News" will be presented July 22-21, but there will not be festival activities on the courthouse lawn that second weekend of shows.
Tickets are $20 reserved seats, $15 general admission; with a $2 discount on tickets for students or groups of 10 or more. Tickets are handled by Tennessee Valley Theatre at 423-365-PLAY.
For more information: www.scopesfestival.com.
› What: 29th annual Scopes Trial Festival
› Where: Rhea County Courthouse 1475 Market St., Dayton, Tenn.
› When: July 14-16; festival hours 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, July 15
“Front Page News” Schedule
July 14: 7:30 p.m.
July 15: 1 and 5 p.m.
July 16: 2:30 p.m.
July 22: 1 and 5 p.m.
July 23: 2:30 p.m.
› Tickets: $20 reserved, $15 general admission; $2 discount for students and groups
› For tickets: 423-365-7529