Freida Egerton

The way she tells it, Freida Egerton had no choice but to purchase the crumbling Ridgeway Opry House. A native of the Ridgeway section of Warren County--she grew up approximately a mile and a half from the historic and beloved venue--Egerton explains that the Opry House played a critical part in her childhood. "I just about grew up here," she explains.

"In fact, this is the first building where I saw a neon light in my life. It ran on the outside. Anyway, the building was coming down--I mean, it was just about to rot and fall down because nobody ever really did anything to it to keep it up, so I decided to buy the place and remodel it, re-do it. It looked so pitiful, and I loved the place so much because it was a part of Ridgeway."

With the help of Egerton's partner Billy Jarrell--a celebrated local musician and instrument builder who passed away in 2009--she began extensive renovations to the building. "Billy always encouraged me to do something good, to do something nice," explains Egerton. "He was all for it."

"If I wanted people to come, I didn't want them to come to an old building that had an old homemade wood heater back here burning wood--I wanted it nice, a place that people would enjoy. I wanted something I could be proud of. I didn't want just to fix it halfway. So I fixed up part of it and it looked so good that I had to keep going. Once you do one thing, you have to keep going."

The refurbished Ridgeway Opry House reopened its doors in 2003 and was an immediate success, due in no small part to Egerton's clear understanding of her community. The Ridgeway proprietress was raised to value hard work and traditional music--including hymns and string band music--that she heard around the house as a child. Egerton explains that, like many in the region, while her family--which consisted of her parents and 11 siblings--might have been poor, they didn't want for anything. "We had all we needed," Egerton remembers. "We had what we wanted, and the rest I guess we didn't need."

Indeed, it is Egerton's spirit of love that makes the Ridgeway Opry House such an important gathering place for musicians and community members in and around Warren County. "I think it's a warm place, an inviting place," says Egerton. "I just love people."

"I love to talk to interesting people, or people that have been places and done things. And I try to make everybody feel at home down here. And it's been real successful, this little place. We just have some of the finest musicians in the tri-county area come in and play and sing."

Each Saturday night, visitors can find Egerton presiding over performances at the Opry House, often playing a mountain dulcimer (built for her by Jarrell) or introducing visiting musicians to enthusiastic audience members. Says Egerton, "If anybody needs me for anything special and I can help them out here with the Opry, I will do it."

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Freida Egerton
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704 US Highway 1 South
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