The woman who saved Centerville, Tennessee, from boredom

The NewsDesk
Read Time3 Minutes, 28 Seconds

Brad Schmitt, Nashville Tennessean
Published 5:00 a.m. CT Nov. 29, 2019 | Updated 2:53 p.m. CT Dec. 5, 2019CLOSEAutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext SlideAfter watching most of her neighbors head out of town for fun for years, lifelong resident Lisa Marie Atkinson Blystad opened an events center in her communityCENTERVILLE, Tenn. — Drive around the town square and you’re sure to see this 3,500-population community’s most famous resident — Opry comedian Minnie Pearl — memorialized in chicken wire.The locally made 8-foot creation is the biggest attraction in a sleepy town where most residents travel 20 minutes to Dickson or an hour to Nashville for weekend fun.Lifelong resident Lisa Marie Atkinson Blystad set out to change that two years ago: She decided she was going to save her hometown from boredom.So Blystad and her husband bought an old 8,800-square-foot horse barn and created the Stables Event Center. Since then, it has been home to little girls’ beauty pageants, Christmas shopping fairs, chamber of commerce dinners, wrestling and more.“I want to give Centerville something besides Minnie Pearl and banana pudding,” Blystad said.So far, city and county leaders love her gift.CLOSE
Lifelong resident Lisa Marie Atkinson Blystad and her husband bought an old 8,800-square-foot horse barn and created The Stables Event Center.
Shelley Mays, smays@tennessean.comHickman County mayor and former high school principal Mark Bentley has been to the Stables Event Center several times for a variety of events, even the wrestling.“My assistant principal came out with a chair and banged a guy over the head with it,” Bentley said, laughing. “It’s fun!”Now, Centerville lights up Friday nights in the fall for Hickman County High School football. (Go Bulldogs!) And there are a handful of restaurants, including the Fish Camp Restaurant, which fries up some — you guessed it — tasty catfish.Blystad, 40, even says the town’s churches do a nice job of providing activities, especially for kids.But, Blystad added, growing up, she was more of a “redneck bonfire-in-the-woods girl” who drank Zima while the boys chugged cans of Budweiser or Bud Light.“I wanted to get away from here!” she said. “There wasn’t anything here that seemed to be fun or interesting. It seemed very churchy, closed minded, very small town.”Taking matters into her own handsAs an adult, and a mom, Blystad decided she wanted to do something about that. She wanted to create a little more excitement in her hometown, or at least offer some alternatives to what was there.So when the barn came up for sale next to her husband’s construction company a couple of years ago, she jumped at the chance to start something.“I always loved Halloween,” she said. “I thought, I could open a haunt there. That’s what I’m going to do!”In addition to that Halloween house of horrors, line dancing, wrestling and shopping fairs all have brought in big crowds. Not that big, of course — the Stables Event Center holds only about 200 people. The events center estimates about half of the attendees come from out of county, bringing extra revenue into the community.What didn’t work — bring-your-own-bottle parties with live bands. Turned out local folks might drink alcohol, but “they don’t want other people to know they drink,” she said.Blystad also has great success renting the center out for weddings, parties, company dinners, class reunions and more.And she includes children in her offerings. Beauty pageants and princess parties also bring in big crowds.“You have to try things one time in Centerville,” Blystad said. “People get bored so I’m always willing to try.”Reach Brad Schmitt at or 615-259-8384 and on Twitter @bradschmitt.My hometownFor all Tennessean home delivery readers, check out a special section on the state’s small towns on Sunday, Dec. 8. Tennessee may be known for its four biggest cities, but it’s the small towns that are its anchor. Photographers from across the USA TODAY Network – Tennessee fanned out across the state to find stories that speak about the lives and issues that impact our small towns.Read or Share this story:

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