The Greater Marshall Chamber of Commerce hosted a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday to welcome the East Texas Performing Arts nonprofit organization to Marshall.

ETPA Director and Board President Sara Whitaker said that the organization began in Jefferson in 2011 when she discovered a lack of children’s theater programs in her area.

“I grew up very fortunate traveling and being part of a lot of different arts events, and so I thought I would start my own theatre company, and here we are,” Whitaker said.

The organization has worked to put together a number of plays and productions, including the production Anne Frank, which they were able to produce during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, the organization runs the Texas Sounds International Country Music Awards, an event that will take place in Marshall for the first time in October this year at Memorial City Hall.

“We really are here thanks to two men, Dan Duke with tourism and Glen Barnhart at Memorial City Hall,” Whitaker said, “They came to us and said we want this event (country music awards) and asked us what they needed to do to bring it here to Marshall.”

Community members gathered with Whitaker and her parents at Memorial City Hall on Tuesday, welcoming the new organization to the Marshall community.

Whitaker said that the organization plans to hold a number of performances and other events in the Marshall area this year, including bringing back their performance of Anne Frank on July 1-3 this year at Memorial City Hall.

During the event, Director of the Chamber of Commerce Stacia Runnels welcomed the new organization to the area, offering them the metaphorical key to the city as the chamber’s newest members.

Community members can learn more about the organization on their website at

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City Reporter

Jessica Harker has been the city reporter with the Marshall News Messenger since 2019.