The Scopes Trial Festival returns to downtown Dayton this week, from July 14-17, and this year’s festival will feature a bluegrass competition with a $1,000 first place prize.

The bluegrass festival  is set for Saturday, July 15, and will feature live bands, as well as food and craft vendors and a car show.

Rhea County Executive George Thacker is responsible for bringing the bluegrass competition to this year’s festival and said it displays another aspect of Rhea County and the Southeast’s cultural heritage 

“The Scopes Trial put Dayton and Rhea County on the map,” Thacker said. “We celebrate the Scopes Trial and the impact it had on Rhea County, and this bluegrass competition will further serve as a celebration of our culture and heritage.

Event organizers said they hope to make the bluegrass competition an annual event at each festival.

Officials are also preparing for the highlight of the festival: The play “Front Page News,” which is performed in the historic courtroom where the Scopes Trial took place.

Tickets for “Front Page News” are on sale now through the Scopes Festival website and Tennessee Valley Theatre.

“Front Page News” will be presented Friday, July 14, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, July 15, at 1 and 5 p.m.; and Sunday, July 16, at 2:30 p.m., as part of the weekend festivities. The play will also be presented on Saturday, July 22, at 1 and 5 p.m. and on Sunday, July 23, at 2:30 p.m.

The play with music features dialogue from the trial transcript and historic accounts of events leading up to the trial.

Tickets are $20 for reserved seats, $15 for general admission and are discounted $2 for high school and middle school students and groups of 10 or more. Visit the festival website,, or call Tennessee Valley Theatre at (423) 365-7529 for more information.

 “Front Page News” is presented through the cooperation of Cumberland County Playhouse, Bryan College and the theatre department of Chattanooga State Community College.

Reed Johnson can be contacted at