Local Living Legends, Part 2

Meridian, Miss. Over the years both Ken Rainey and Tony Sansone have given tirelessly of their time and efforts to enhance what the Queen City has to offer. Among their many accomplishments include a concert earlier this year which packed the Temple Theatre, and featured country music sensation, Randy Houser. With decades of accomplishments to their credit we're taking a look at what the two men hope for the future.

Rainey is 74-years-old, and he's no stranger to bringing big name acts to Meridian. In 1972 he was one of the people responsible for revitalizing the Jimmie Rodgers Festival after an almost 20 year hiatus.

It was during that restructuring process that Rainey and others involved made a strategic change that proved to be profitable over the years for the festival by decreasing the number of performers from almost a dozen to just a handful with one big name headliner.

"Randy Travis got his first standing ovation on the Temple Theatre stage," says Rainey. "It was easier to say who had not played at the Temple Theatre than to say who had played at the Temple Theatre."

During this time Rainey and his friend, Tony Sansone, who's now 82, brought dozens of big name artists to Meridian for shows primarily through civic group type efforts. With a mutual respect the two say they didn't compete with each other in doing this, but instead often worked somewhat together with one goal in mind, and that was to enhance the community.

"We just stopped doing shows because of our age, and we've gotten so old now; we quit for about 15 years, Tony did and I did, and then one day he says, 'Well, let's do the ballet,' and said, 'Look, I'm a little bit country and you're a lot of Rock 'n' Roll.' So, here we are doing the ballet now," says Rainey.

For the past 8 years the two have brought the Moscow Ballet to Meridian during the holidays to perform 'The Great Russian Nutcracker.'

"What we're happy about with the ballet is the 60 to 85 children who get to perform with 30 Russian ballerinas and that's what we love about it," says Rainey.

As for the future, the two have high hopes.

"When we're in that great theatre in the sky there's going to be events at the Riley Center for matinees and something over here at the Temple at night," says Tony Sansone, "and they're going to come from about a 150 mile radius, and they're going to be events in both of these theatres one of these days. Ken and I might be in that theatre in the sky, but it'll be okay."


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