Tri-State Original: Possum Holler Opry - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Tri-State Original: Possum Holler Opry

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QUINCY, Ill. (WGEM)-- If you grew up in the tri-states during the 1960's, our next Tri-State Original should take you right down memory lane.

In the 1960's, it was hard to find a household in the tri-states that wasn't tuned into the Possum Holler Opry on Sunday afternoons.

It was one of the highest rated local shows of all time, and to this day, it still surprises the show's creator.

"They thought we would last maybe three weeks, and we lasted 10 years and had the highest rated TV show, we beat our the NFL game of the year and we beat out Bonanza, which was just great," said Toby Elsenpeter, who played Toby Dick Ellis on Possum Holler Opry.

The country music variety show format was new to the television world at that time, but what some people saw as an experiment, Elsenpeter saw an opportunity.

"We had a thing, capturing the country music sounds of the Mississippi Valley. We captured the sounds of our region and didn't try to copy anybody," Elsenpeter said.

With so much local success, Elsenpeter decided he wanted to produce the show nationally.

He made this pilot called Possum Holler Opry RFD to show the national TV networks.

The show was never picked up, but something interesting did happen.

"Bing Crosby studios came out with Mayberry RFD and the studios that produced Hee Haw and we had dancing possums, they had dancing pigs," Elsenpeter said.

Possum Holler Opry's last show aired on Mother's Day in 1970, exactly 10 years from when it started.

Elsenpeter continued to perform around the country and even built a family business around performing.

One his son has continued to expand upon.

"We represent 34, 35 different performers and that can range anywhere from puppeteers, jugglers, storytellers, motivational speakers, hypnotists," said Richard Elsenpeter.

All of whom are local performers, working for a company that started with one man's idea, more than 60 years ago.

Elsenpeter says even after all these years, he still gets the occasional letter or fan who remembers just how good the show was.

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