Opry honors number one fan

Thursday, June 14, 2012 – If it's the weekend for Paul Eckhardt, it's guaranteed he'll be at the Grand Ole Opry. This Saturday, the Opry will recognize its undisputed most loyal fan.

Eckhart will mark 40 years without having missed a single weekend of Opry performances, and the Opry plans to celebrate during the show by honoring him with its first-ever Opry Fan Award along with other surprises while he and his family enjoy performances from the Opry's front row.

Eckhart began his Opry streak the day he and his family moved from northeastern Pennsylvania to Nashville, visiting the Opry that night before his family had even unpacked. Eckhardt credits the Opry not just with years of great entertainment, but with also as having played a pivotal role in his happy marriage. For nearly as many years as he's been spending his weekends at the show that made country music famous, his wife has headed in a different direction to play bingo.

"Of course there have been some true standout moments over the past 40 years," Eckhart said, "but every Opry show has been special, each one has been different, and every single one of them has been entertaining. I can't imagine having spent my weekends anywhere other than the Grand Ole Opry."

"Paul is family," said Opry Vice President and General Manager Pete Fisher. "Like so many other Opry fans, he's built an amazing connection with the show and with the artists who perform on the Opry stage. None of us can imagine looking out on a weekend Opry performance and not seeing Paul in the crowd. We hope to make this Saturday night's show his most memorable yet."