Most college students head home right after their college finals but a group of performing arts students from Pratt Community College are packing their bags and heading to Tennessee for some special performances.
About 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. on May 11 right after graduation, 15 performing arts students and six adults will leave PCC and head to Tennessee to visit and perform in Pigeon Forge at the Country Tonite Theatre, said acting instructor Misty Beck who will head up the trip scheduled for a week.
Country Tonite has a Branson-style variety show and the PCC students will be doing a 20-minute pre-show performance in a 1,500 to 2,000-seat theatre.
Endurance will be a key factor on the way to Tennessee. Students will travel about 18 hours in three vans to get to their destination. Hopefully, the students will sleep for the first eight hours of the trip, Beck said.
After their performance, students will head to Dollywood to enjoy the rides and entertainment. Students will be required to visit all the shows in Dollywood and be welcomed by former PCC music student Kellye (Pritchett) Huesman who performs at one of the Dollywood venues.
"I'm sure we'll get to tour one of the theatres at Dollywood," Beck said. "She's (Kellye) excited we're coming and will be kind of our host."
Visits to the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, the Dukes of Hazard Museum, gift shopping and other activities are also on the trip agenda. Exploring the Smoky Mountains, visiting Gatlinburg, Tenn. and a visit to an aquarium are also planned.
The return trip is also packed with activities including another performance in a very special place. One stop will be the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville then onward to Memphis and a tour of Elvis' home at Graceland at 9 a.m. on Friday, May 17.
But the students will also be performing at Graceland. Their performance will be at 11 a.m. also on Friday, May 17. It is scheduled for 30 to 40 minutes and will include the Elvis hits "Heartbreak Hotel" and "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You."
This trip is a restart of a former tradition of the performing arts department taking a trip every two years when the department had more students.
"It gives students something to look forward to at the end of the year," Beck said.
Students had to raise the funds for the trip that costs $600 apiece. They have been doing fundraisers all year including a bake sale, selling candles and a Hillbilly Band, complete with washboards and spoons, that people hired to perform at various locations.
Students had to work together to earn the money and learn what it takes to make things happen.
"It's a great team builder. The whole process is a good learning experience," Beck said.
As the semester draws to a close and students tackle finals, the excitement of the trip will build. Students are looking forward to the trip but not so much the 18 hours in a van to get to Pigeon Forge. Still, it will be something the students will remember for a long time.
"It's going to be a week packed with lots to do," Beck said. "It will be a great experience for them."
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