Every five years, Fred Faircloth and about 300 of his closest relatives meet in York for the Lowry/Murphey family reunion.
The three-day event includes social events, a memorial service for lost loved ones and a giant picnic at the McCelvey Center. And before everyone heads back to their respective homes, the group gathers on McCelvey's front steps for a giant family photograph.
When they meet again in 2010, they hope to have an extra reason to celebrate.
On Tuesday, Faircloth announced plans to launch a campaign to rename the McCelvey Theatre to Lowry Theater or Lowry Hall in honor of the late Ann Lowry Murphey, the family matriarch who was a driving force behind the reunions.
The family has made a contribution to begin the campaign and will spend the next three years raising money to reach the renaming contribution level, said Faircloth, a Rock Hill resident who is 2007 vice chairman of the York County Culture & Heritage Commission.
"This theater has always been special to our family," Faircloth said. "This contribution is a natural way to support the arts by honoring someone who meant so much to our entire family. We're well on our way to making this a reality."
Neither Faircloth nor Van Shields, director and CEO of the Culture and Heritage Museums group that operates the McCelvey Center, would disclose the financial details. Shields, however, called the donation "a substantial amount."
New look, new series
The McCelvey Center is preparing for its 17th annual McCelvey Showcase Series, which kicks off later this month in its recently renovated historic theater.
"This season very well may surpass any season that we've ever had, in terms of people's interest and enjoyment," said Mary Lynn Norton, McCelvey's community relations manager and director of visual and performing arts.
The five-event lineup, also announced Tuesday during the Greater York Chamber's Business After Hours hosted by the center, includes Grammy-award winning bluegrass artist Ralph Stanley and his band, The Clinch Mountain Boys, the play, "All The Way From Magnolia Springs," musicians Anonymous 4 with Darol Agner & Scott Nygaard, The Taffetas and The Piano Men, starring Jim Witter.
Individual performances range from $20 to $40, and season passes for the entire series are available for $110 for Culture and Heritage Museums members and $135 for non-members.
Norton said the theater has launched a new online ticketing program that allows audience members to select their seats from an online seating chart.
"We've come a long way," Norton quipped.
It helps that the center recently received $180,000 worth of renovations. Changes include new stage flooring, new main curtains, a new sound and lighting system and a new, state-of-the art digital projection system, all made possible by a grant from the S.C. Arts Commission, the Lowry/ Murphey Family Foundation and individual donations.
"Now, our dancers won't get splinters when they dance across the stage," said Norton, referring to poor conditions that plagued the theater for years. "And the curtain cord doesn't jam anymore."
Norton said the sound quality alone will give the theater a broader range of capabilities. The Piano Men performance, for example, will include digital projections of life in the 1970s in the background as Witter plays Elton John and Billy Joel hits on the grand piano.
The renovations are also opening the door for more programming and use of the theater, Norton said, adding that businesses and community groups are encouraged to rent the theater for meetings or performances.
Shields added that these changes are just a small sample of what's to come. He said more upgrades are planned for the next few years at McCelvey Center, including new exterior windows.
"We have great plans for the future of the center," Shields said. "This theater is a great asset, not only for the city of York but for the entire county."
The 2007-2008 McCelvey Showcase Series
Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys: 8 p.m. Aug. 25
A patriarch of traditional mountain music, the "Man of Constant Sorrow" guarantees to stir the soul. Stanley prefers an area group to open for him when he appears in a small community, so York County's own Burford Brothers will warm up the crowd and center stage at McCelvey. Tickets: CHM members, $35; non-members, $40; seniors or students: $38.
All The Way From Magnolia Springs: 7 p.m. Oct. 23
Come meet snaggle-toothed Daisy Fay Harper in the summer of 1958 where she's packing for her trip to the Miss Mississippi Pageant in Tupelo in a play based on the best selling novel, "Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man" by Fannie Flagg, who officially entered the pantheon of Southern writers with "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café." Tickets: CHM members: $20; non-members: $25; seniors/students: $23
Anonymous 4 With Darol Agner & Scott Nygaard: 8 p.m. Nov. 3
The Anonymous 4 returns to the McCelvey stage with new-grass stars Darol Anger and Scott Nygaard. They'll perform Gloryland, a musical journey into the rich songbook of traditional American folk music. Tickets: CHM members: $25; non-members: $30; seniors/students: $28
The Taffetas: 3 p.m. March 16, 2008
Journey down memory lane as The Taffetas pay tribute to fabulous female groups of the '50s, singing tunes by renowned groups such as the McGuire Sisters, the Fontane Sisters and The Chordettes. The Taffetas and their three-piece band will light up the stage, reminiscent of Sunday night television on a 12-inch black and white screen. Tickets: CHM members: $20; non-members: $25; seniors/students: $23
The Piano Men, starring Jim Witter: 8 p.m. April 19, 2008
This musical celebration of the '70s -- year by year, hit by hit -- features music from Billy Joel and Elton John. Witter's performance shows us the headlines, the automobiles, the events and even the toys and TV Commercials that made the 1970s a memorable decade. Tickets: CHM members: $25; non-members: $30; seniors/students: $28
McCelvey Center is at 212 E. Jefferson St. in York. For details, call 684-3948 or visit www.chmuseums.org.