The Grand Ole Opry will celebrate the life and legacy of Minnie Pearl, one of its most iconic members, beginning this week. The celebration will culminate with an Opry show in her honor October 23, two days before what would have been her 100th birthday.
Born Sarah Ophelia Colley on October 25, 1912 in Centerville, Tenn., she became Mrs. Henry Cannon in 1947 and first appeared as Minnie Pearl in 1938. An executive from 650 AM-WSM saw her perform in 1940 and invited her to appear on the Opry, where she went on to entertain generations of Opry fans, shouting her signature line of “How-dee! I’m jes’ so proud to be here!” and telling stories about her character’s life in fictional hometown of Grinder’s Switch, Tennessee.
Though she passed away in 1996, her wish was that her character would live on forever. To fulfill her wish, a plaque honoring Minnie Pearl at the Country Music Hall of Fame is inscribed only with a birth date, no date of death listed. An actor dressed as Minnie Pearl still greets the audience at every Opry show.
“Minnie Pearl’s legacy is stronger at the Opry today than it’s ever been,” Pete Fisher, Opry vice president and general manager, said. “We’re excited about celebrating the love and laughter the character Minnie Pearl embodies with our guests and with our partners at the Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation. It’s going to be a fun celebration throughout the summer and leading up to Minnie’s 100th birthday in October.”
In honor of the celebration, guests on Grand Ole Opry House Backstage Tours will be able to take their photo with a Minnie stand-up in the ‘Now That’s Funny’ dressing room which celebrates the greatest comedians at the Opry. There will also be video clips of some of Minnie’s best comedic moments.
Beginning next month, Minnie Pearl’s character will be available for photos with guests before each Opy show. There will also be a variety of Minnie-related games in the auditorium before the show. Photos depicting the life of Sarah Colley Cannon and Minnie Pearl will be on display in the lobby of the Grand Ole Opry House beginning July 12.
In addition, the Opry Backstage Grill will serve a strawberry shortcake birthday dessert resembling Minnie’s famous flowered hat. The Opry’s official website includes a special “Hats Off To Minnie!” page with vintage photos and video of Minnie on the Opry, “Minnie Moments” from country stars, and more. The page also details how fans can share their own “Minnie Moments” with the Opry and the Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation.
“The spirit of Minnie Pearl is alive and well within The Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation,” Susan Hosbach, executive director of The Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation, said. “We’ve been celebrating our 25th anniversary and Minnie’s 100th birthday all year long. ‘We are just so proud’ to partner with the Grand Ole Opry to give Minnie and her legacy a celebration worthy of an icon.”