Author: Rhea Heritage

This year is the 96th anniversary of the Scopes Trial and the 32nd year of a Scopes Trial reenactment. I was involved in the very first play and remained part of it for 20 consecutive years, first as Tom Stewart, then Clarence Darrow for the next 19 years. I also was director the last five of those years. The reenactment has evolved over the years, and continues to do so; this year is no different, primarily due to Covid. 

Because we were unsure of the production happening until the last couple of months, this version is a scaled-down model. But it tells the story and gets to the meat of the how and why the trial came about. I want to thank Rick Dye and Tom Davis for getting this back up and going, and also for the opportunity to be asked to step back in as director along with portraying William Jennings Bryan. And a big thank you to the cast for their heart and drive to make this happen. I hope you, the audience, can take with you some of our history from our small town and see that the issues that were debated in 1925 are still being debated today.

Thank you, and enjoy the show.
Tony McCuiston

Rhea Heritage Foundation, in partnership with Nokian Tyres, will have an open mic  Local Talent Showcase at Nokian Tyres Summer Nights 2021.

Every Friday in July local talent will have the opportunity to perform for the public, opening for the main event bands, from 4 o’clock until 5:30. Any genre of music is welcome, and the performance can be a solo or a group. The performer can have musical accompaniment or can have a trac cd.

Each performance will be given 10 to 12 minutes to shine on the courthouse stage. Two performers will be selected from the first 4 nights performances to open for the Nashville based band Runaway Home on finale night. Rhea county has so many talented people that deserve to be heard. So, we want to provide the outlet for that. Applications are available upon request from the Foundation at Get your application in soon as there will be limited time slots available. 

Concert nights are July 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30. 

As we begin to get back to life as usual, the Rhea Heritage Preservation Foundation is planning for the 2021 Nokian Tyres Summer Nights Music Series as well as the Scopes Trial and Bluegrass Festival. 

“We are proud to have Nokian Tyres partner with us as our sponsor for Summer Nights 2021.” Said Dorothy Anderson, Administrative Assistant and Event Coordinator. “I think this outdoor event will be a great way to come together again as a community and still observe covid protocols.”

Every Friday night in July the Rhea County Courthouse stage will come alive with some great music from Rhea Springs Revival, Mother Legacy, Michael Seabolt Band, Brandon Maddox and straight from Nashville on the finale night, Runaway Home. 

There will be e-raffle giveaways every night leading up to a set of Nokian Tyres on the finale night. The more nights you attend the more chances you have to win.

There will be something new this year, an open mic time every night from 4:00 until 5:30 to showcase local talent. “We have so many talented people that we felt this would be a good outlet” added Ms Anderson, “We hope to add this as an annual part of the concerts if we have good participation. Applications can be obtained by emailing us at

Scopes Festival will be a one day event on July 17th from 10am until 8pm. There are many activities and games planned for everyone’s enjoyment. Food vendors and crafters, watermelon cutting and seed spittin contest and of course music all day long from some toe tappin bluegrass bands including Double Cross and Mt Laconte Jug Band. 

The Scopes Trial Play will be a bit different this year. It will be a shortened version of the usual play but will still be presented in the Rhea County Courthouse main courtroom. Seating will be in compliance with the covid protocols for distancing. Ticket prices will be $5.00 for general seating, $8.00 for reserved seating and $6.00 reserved seating for organized groups. Tickets can be purchased on the website,

We deeply regret to announce that the Scopes Festival and Summer Nights concerts are cancelled for 2020.
Because of guidance from the State of Tennessee and concerns about potential risks to our patrons, the Rhea Heritage Preservation Foundation believes that it is in the best interest of all concerned not to present the concerts and festivals this year.
We are grateful for the support we have received in the form of individuals looking forward to the concerts and festival, and the commitment of performers and vendors to help produce a full schedule of activities.
Our intention is to rebound in 2021 and present another outstanding series of concerts in July, and a full-blown Scopes Festival the third weekend of July. Please check back with us early in 2021 for further updates.

The Scopes Festival will look different this year, but it’s still on schedule as a one-day event for the third weekend in July.

“Saturday, July 18, will see a day full of outdoor activities for the whole family,” Festival
Chairman Tom Davis announced. “We are planning demonstrations of crafts that were a part of everyday life in the 1920s, live music, storytelling, and even a watermelon-cutting. We also hope to have some characters from the Scopes Trial drop by and talk with guests about their impressions of Dayton.”

Social distancing directives and other COVID-related issues made it impossible to begin
rehearsals for Front Page News, the central feature of the festival. Questions lingered about being able to accommodate a crowd in the courtroom where the play has been traditionally presented. In the end, it was decided that the play was not possible for 2020’s festival.

Bluegrass bands will perform on the courthouse lawn during the day, and vendors are being invited to sell their wares. “We also plan to have games for the whole family,” Davis said.

“This has been a difficult change in plans for us to make,” he admitted, “but we believe we will have an event that will help all of us get outside and celebrate as our community recovers from the pandemic’s impact.”

The Scopes Festival and the Nokian Tyres Summer Nights concerts scheduled each Friday in July, are made possible by major funding from Rhea County, the City of DaytonNokian Tyres and the Tennessee Arts Commission.