by Linda Russell, KY3 News
2:14 PM CST, January 3, 2013
EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. -- Two months after it closed down, an effort to save The Great Passion Play produces its resurrection. Fundraisers, including an Oklahoma based radio network, passed the plate to pay the overdue interest on bank loans to keep it out of foreclosure.
People from all over the country rallied around The Great Passion Play in its time of need. "We have seen literally hundreds of people online giving $20, $40, $50, $100. We've had gifts as large as $5,000," says Randall Christy, President of The Gospel Station Network.
The effort raised $75,000 in just ten days. "We deposited the funds necessary to cross the first hurdle and stop a foreclosure and proceed with opening the 2013 season!" announced Christy at a news conference Thursday.
"Oh I'm so excited and so thrilled!" says Carroll County resident Nita Holley. The news brings new hope for all those who love the Great Passion Play. "I mean I grew up going to church all the time and knew the story by heart, but seeing it and seeing the pain that was inflicted, just brings you almost to tears," Holley says.
The Gospel Station Network, with 25 FM radio station in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Mississippi, and Tennessee, will take over management of the play. The radio network is donating $100,000 of radio advertising over the next year.
"We're going to do some things that are necessary to save this so that we're not back in a hole again in two years. We must make this first season successful!" Christy says.
"They seem to be people that have a fresh vision and people that have strong leadership abilities," says the actor who plays Jesus in The Great Passion Play.
Now, begins an effort to raise $6 million dollars in one year to pay off the bank note. Just one of the fundraising efforts will be a Save-a-Seat campaign where donors can actually have their name or that of a loved one engraved on one of the seats in the amphitheater. Another fundraising idea is to name the amphitheater after a corporate donor.
Supporters of The Great Passion Play know it will take the help of many. "That's what the kingdom of God is all about; not just one religion, one walk of life- it includes everybody," says Pastor Acra Turner of Rock Springs Baptist Church.
After witnessing the events of the last several days, those standing behind The Great Passion Play have faith it will rise again. "We've had a Christmas miracle folks, and we don't need to forget it!" says Christy.
The Great Passion Play will begin performances the first weekend of May, with three shows a week. Tickets sales and the park's re-opening will come any day now. Christy says tickets for opening weekend will have special pricing, as they aim to fill every seat.
The Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce says it will continue to keep The Great Passion Play in the forefront of its marketing, with an added push on ticket sales.
Christy says several hotels in Eureka Springs have made donations, and will receive radio promotion in return. He also says they'll work with Branson wholesalers to sell more tickets, and hopefully bring more bus tours back to Eureka Springs. They also hope to bring some other events to the amphitheater on nights without a passion play performance.
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