Rosanne Cash, Willie Nelson headline Cash festival

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Concert goers heard from an all-star lineup of talent when the Johnny Cash Music Festival kicked off Friday evening at the Arkansas State University Convocation Center.

Rosanne Cash and Willie Nelson headlined the benefit concert, which raised money to restore Cash's boyhood home in Dyess.

Before the stage lights went up Friday, Region 8 News got a behind-the-scenes look at rehearsals.

Cash's daughter Rosanne practiced one of her father's hits, accompanied by her aunt, Joanne, and uncle, Tommy. The Grammy Award-winning duo The Civil Wars sang alongside the Cash family and was joined later in the evening by Willie Nelson and Dierks Bentley.

The Cash family helped recruit these performers, and Rosanne, who usually shies away from other benefits, said she could hardly hesitate to be involved with this one.

"Because I think that this would be the most important honor to my dad," she said. "Of all of the accolades and awards that he got, this would have really meant something to him, would have moved him to his core. That's why I'm involved."

Rosanne not only performed at the benefit but also served as its host. She has support an effort by ASU to restore her father's childhood home in the Dyess Colony, a place she visited several times as a child.

"Last year when we had the first concert," she said, "the house had just been acquired. You know, it was just an idea, and now it's really happening."

The Dyess Colony was established in 1934 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal program. Cash's family was one of 500 others that participated in an agricultural resettlement project in Dyess, which provided out-of-work farmers with a farmstead and a chance to eventually own their property.

ASU's Arkansas Heritage Sites department is restoring the Cash home. It has already completed a renovation of the home's exterior after $300,000 was raised from last year's concert.

"The money from this concert will go to finish that restoration," said Dr. Ruth Hawkins, director of the Arkansas Heritage Sites, "including furnishing the house with the kind of furnishings that would have been there when Johnny Cash was there."

Hawkins says, when the restoration is complete, it will bring an economic boom to the area. She estimates additional projects in Dyess will create 110 new jobs and bring in $9 million in revenue to the region.

Organizers hope ticket sales this year will at least match the amount raised last year, with Hawkins projecting a $200,000 profit.

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