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The way it was: Arts Center debut -- 1983
Nov 10, 2013 - Staff
The first paid performance at the newly minted Robert A. Peck Arts Center (known originally as the Central Wyoming College Arts Center) 30 years ago this week featured country music entertainer and "Hee Haw" television star Roy Clark.
After series of smaller, free concerts featuring mostly local performers during the preceding week helped the Arts Center technical staff get used to the new facility, the crew was ready for the big time when Clark's high-energy show arrived on a Sunday afternoon.
The 50-year-old Clark flew his own airplane to Riverton Regional Airport that morning, then took the stage for an afternoon show at 3 p.m. and a nighttime performance at 8 p.m. Both shows sold out the 942-seat theater.
Clark, whose virtuosos guitar, fiddle and banjo skills often were overshadowed by the cornpone skits of "Hee Haw," proved a dazzling live entertainer, mixing humor and even a bit of magic with his expert musicianship as he shared the stage with his traveling orchestra and opening act Jimmy Henley.
In the following months the Arts Center hosted several other nationally known acts, including B.J. Thomas, the Maynard Ferguson big band and the Grass Roots.