The six-foot circle of dark, oak wood in the Opry House stage is shiny but clearly well worn. Cut from the stage of the Opry's famous former home, the Ryman Auditorium, this circle gives newcomers and veterans alike the opportunity to sing on the same spot that once supported Uncle Dave Macon, Ernest Tubb, Patsy Cline, and others.
"That circle is the most magical thing when you're a performer," says Brad Paisley, "to stand there and get to sing on those same boards that probably still contain dust from Hank Williams' boots."
Many things about the Opry have changed over the years - its members, the sound of its music, even its home. But there's always that oak-solid center to remind every singer or musician who steps inside that they take part in something much larger than themselves, that wherever they go they have a connection to the legends and the giants who came before them.
As that wooden circle is the heart of the stage, the Opry's heart is its music and its members - a broad scope of styles by a wide range of artists.
"The Grand Ole Opry celebrates country music's diversity," says Opry general manager Pete Fisher. "In addition, the Opry presents the many generations of artists who have formed country music's legacy and continue to forge its future course."