By Mike Steely

One of the greatest court trials in America is being re-enacted as part of the Scopes Festival in Dayton in July.

The 1925 trial, where a local teacher was charged of illegally teaching evolution, will be presented on various days from July 14th to July 22nd in the same room the original trial took place. Upstairs in the Rhea County Courthouse has been preserved. The musical features dialogue from the trial transcript and historic accounts leading to the confrontation.

Dayton, Tennessee, is easy to drive to and located on Highway 29. The historic town can be reached off of Interstate 75 by taking Highway 30 at the Athens exit or Highway 50 at the north Cleveland exit. If you take Highway 30 you’ll pass through Decatur and Old Washington, the original Rhea County seat. The courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places and is usually open for visitors during regular business hours.

Tom Davis, Festival Chairman, told The Focus that several other events have been included in this year’s festival.

“This year we have added a bluegrass festival and competition on Saturday and are working on a couple more things,” he said. The festival will also include a car show during the weekend of July 14-16.

The play, “Front Page News,” pits Clarence Darrow against William Jennings Bryan— one arguing that evolution should be taught and the other backing the Bible as the only authority on creation.

Reserved tickets are $20 and general admission is $15 on a first-come first-seated basis. Groups of more than 10 tickets and students tickets are given a $2 discount. The show is both funny and entertaining for all ages and spurs a healthy debate on the historic issue.

Spring City and Rhea County’s theatrical company, Tennessee Valley Theatre, will present this year’s rendition of “Front Page News” and the play is presented with the cooperation of Cumberland County Playhouse, Bryan College and the Chattanooga State Community College’s theatre department.

Financial support comes from Rhea County, the City of Dayton, the Tennessee Arts Commission, First Bank of Tennessee and Life Care Center of Rhea County.

“Front Page News” will be presented at various times July 14-16 as part of the festival weekend and on July 22 and 23rd when no festival activities are present on the courthouse lawn.

More information is available at or by calling Tennessee Valley Theatre at (423) 365-7529.