Tennessee DYW Program co-chair Traci Fant said she has been amazed by the support from local business, individuals and families the program has received in the smaller city where one of 21 rising seniors from across the state will be named Distinguished Young Woman of Tennessee for 2013 Saturday evening.
“All of our host families this year are from the Cleveland area,” Fant said in a recent interview. “We’ve always had to pull from Chattanooga and Ooltewah in the past, but this year, every family is a Cleveland family. Cleveland support has been huge in all facets.”
Girls and their families will come from as far away as Jackson. Most of the rising seniors are from an area between Jackson and Nashville though many are from Southeast and East Tennessee.
“We did three at-large programs this year in Memphis, Nashville and Cleveland, so I think the entire state is somewhat represented,” Fant said.
The program moved in 2009 from the cavernous Tivoli Theater in Chattanooga to the smaller and more intimate setting of Dixon Center on the campus of Lee University. The program is moving this year from Lee University to the slightly larger Fine Arts Building at Bradley Central High School. This will be the first major event held in the building by an organization not associated with the school.
“We’ve struggled to find the right location. Moving from the Tivoli to the Dixon Center was an adjustment because of the seating capacity and the production team was accustomed to it. But now that we’ve made the move, it has been easier for us as a committee because we’ve gotten so used to the Dixon Center and Lee University, which has always been wonderful,” she said.
But, the seating capacity and the stage at the high school’s new building seems to be a perfect fit and Fant anticipates the program has found a home for several years. While the high school setting does not invoke the prestigious image of the Tivoli Theater or a university, the smaller setting should make for a louder audience.
“The seating is around 600 and it just seems like a perfect fit,” Fant said. “Once we work out some minor kinks, I think it’s going to be a perfect fit and it’s likely we’ll be in that location for years to come.
“We never hit the capacity of the Tivoli. We were pretty much on the main floor. There were some in the balcony, but we had tons and tons of seats left. ,” she said. “At the Tivoli, it was just not very loud, but when we were in the Dixon Center (with 450 seats), when the audience yelled, it was loud enough that the girls could hear it. We were very close to each other and it was just wonderful for the production team.”
The Cleveland High School alumna said she, of course, would love to have the show at her alma mater, but the program committee is excited the venue is a public high school in her hometown.
“It was wonderful to have it on Lee’s campus because the girls will be going to college next year and that was a nice additive, but to me, it really speaks volumes to the type of high schools we have in this area because of the level of the theater. It’s just a wonderful testament to Cleveland and that’s why we’re so excited. We are holding it in a high school and we are serving senior girls.”
As an added bonus, the contestants will practice all week on the same stage where they will perform Friday and Saturday evenings. The contestants will dress is in the choir room where one wall is mirrored and the lighting is exceptional.
“We’re able to set up their dressing room where they can all have access to a mirror and the lighting is really, really good,” Fant said. “This is going to give us more space and they will be performing on the same stage they are practicing on.”
Katye Brock, the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2011, will serve as master of ceremonies.
“This group of young women this year is very, very, very talented and it’s going to be a wonderful show,” Fant said.