Origins of Horn in the West
In this section of the exhibit you will see the vast and rich history of Horn in the West from its conception in the 1950s to the modern day.
The origin of Horn in the West can be traced back to the year 1949. This was the centennial of the creation of Watauga County and to celebrate local leaders wanted to put on a show in Boone that would tell the rich and colorful history of the county. It took a year to plan but the show was written and named Echoes of the Blue Ridge. This show would span several centuries of regional history starting with the Native Americans and Spanish exploration and would go through the modern era. One pivotal character of course was Daniel Boone. The show was slated to begin production in the summer of 1949 running from July 5 to July 9. The weather had other plans however and the show was rained out. In 1950 the town tried again running the show from June 30 to July 4 to major success. With this success plans were put in motion by Mrs. Constance Stallings to create a new outdoor drama in Boone. She had traveled to see the oldest outdoor drama in the state The Lost Colony and decided that Boone could do better since it had more favorable conditions weather wise. A committee was formed to create a new show that portrayed the mountain people as they really were.
The first task this committee had to accomplish was to gain public favor for the new production. They approached many of Boone's local business leaders who gave the idea mixed reactions, even Appalachian State co-founder B.B. Dougherty stated that they had big plans. The committee wanted to hire famous playwright Paul Green to write this new outdoor drama. However, trying to contact him led to a dead end but after a recommendation by Dr. I.G. Greer of UNC they went with Green’s protégé Kermit Hunter who had recently written the scrip for the Cherokee outdoor drama Unto These Hills. Hunter was very eager to begin work on the new drama and met with the committee to discuss the process of creating a n outdoor drama. To operate this new drama the committee chartered a new historical organization which they called the Southern Appalachian Historical Association Inc. This new organization’s purpose was to put on educational, cultural, historical, and economic programs with its main objective being the creation of the new drama which was temporarily named The Wilderness Road.
To showcase this new drama a new outdoor theater had to be constructed. This theater would be named Daniel Boone Theater after the famous frontiersman and leading character in the show. The land the theater was to be built on was purchased from James and Carrie Winkler. The groundbreaking ceremony was held in March of 1952 and construction was completed by June. Daniel Boone theater needed landscaping so SAHA hired William Lippard of Charlotte North Carolina to design the landscaping and the task was completed with the assistance of landscaping students from North Carolina State University. Soon several SAHA members met with Hunter to hear the script for the new show which he titled Horn in the West. Tickets soon went on sale for the firsts season with 7,000 tickets being sold in the first 10 days!
The first showing of Horn in the West took place on June 27, 1952. It was delayed seven minutes due to rain. The first season was directed by Kai Jurgensen of Chapel Hill North Carolina. The original script had a slew of characters many of which have been completely removed. However, the heart of the show in its early years rested with three key individuals. Charlie Elledge who played one of the many preachers, William Ross who played the villain Captain Mackenzie, and Glen Causey who at first was the square dance caller but would later play Daniel Boone and holds the title of the man who played Daniel Boone the longest. The first Daniel Boone was played by Boone native Ned Austin. After its first season attendance dropped since most locals had seen the show. In 1954 the script was revised with the cast of characters being dropped from 32 to 23. By this point two of the stars had gained their prominent role. Causey was cast as Boone and Elledge as Reverend Sims. During the 12th season of the show the famous Cherokee fire dance was added which has rained a favorite in the show for decades.
With the Bicentennial of the American Revolution underway the stage was renovated and extended, and a pond was added. This season also saw the introduction of a future star of the show Jenny Cole. At this point she was a member of the show’s chorus. 1984 was Charlie’s last season as Reverend Sims. After the season he had surgery on his throat and was unable to read his lines. Director Ed Pilkington said it was the most difficult thing he ever had to do. Charlie still holds the record as the longest running Sims. In 1993 another future Horn star made his debut on stage. Darrell King took on the role of Reverend Sims. In 1996 at the age of 70 Glen Causey played Daniel Boone for the last time. In 2001 Jenny Cole made her debut as Widow Howard. This began a stage presence that has not diminished since it began. Jenny and Darrell have brought so much life to the stage as Sims and Howard. Any time that one of them is not on stage it just doesn’t feel the same. Both were removed from the show for a short time but in 2018 they were both brought back bringing that spark back to the Boone summer nights.
For a short time, the beloved Cherokee fire dance was removed from the show but was brought back in 2018 and has remained in the following seasons. As the seasons have progressed new faces have come and gone from the show. 2020 marked the first summer in 68 years that Horn in the West was not produced due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. The recent seasons have seen promising young actors and actresses’ like Chris Morrow, Claire Parnell, Logan Riley, Benedetto Robinson, Kaley Pharr, Scott Loveless, Xeleighta Bernardo, and Shannon Burke who are just a few of the many talented cast members to take the stage. 2021 will mark the 69th season of Horn in the West and will be directed by long time Horn veteran Shauna Godwin. As its approaches its 70th season SAHA is buzzing with excitement. The new season is brining in on major change however. This change is a push towards more historical accuracy in costuming and in the script though the original story by Kermit Hunter will never be changed. As its 70th season approaches Horn in the West will push forward bringing family fun and entertainment to the High-country for years to come!