NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — One thing that we know is true; Nashvillians loved Opryland, and they miss it. Now, a man's asking for your help in creating the ultimate love letter to the park.
"I think I'm a historian," said documentary filmmaker Brandon Vestal. "Just capturing moments and candids of history is kinda my passion."
The project he's taking on now is a bit personal. Old family pictures are of Vestal at a special place, the Opryland USA theme park.
"We grew up in the park," he remembered. "At the time, it was just what everyone did. We spent every day of our summers there with season passes. It was your first time not having your parents supervising you, you know."
Opryland closed 25 years ago in December 1997.
"Opryland had an incredible archive of video content," Vestal continued. "I can only imagine all the great content that they had that was lost in the 2010 flood in a basement on Broadway."
Vestal decided he was going to do something for Opryland. He's started collecting things from people submitting and on platforms like eBay.
"I've got the original radio ads from 1972," he said, shuffling through a table of Opryland merchandise. "Here's a license plate. That really takes you back in time. Here's a Grizzly River Rampage cap."
Most importantly, Vestal is gathering hundreds of hours of video footage of Opryland including people's home movies.
"This particular home video from 1981 is a gold mine," he said, showing a video of a family on rides. "This guy didn't know it, but he's a budding Spielberg. These candids of the park in 1981 are phenomenal."
Vestal is working to create an Opryland documentary or maybe even a five part series. Included in his work is an interview with artist Ryan Crowder who's using virtual reality to take people through the home of American Music.
"We're following him around to see the process of this thing," Vestal said of the VR work-in-progress. "The idea of putting on a headset and going back to Opryland, it's just something you gotta experience. It's gonna be wild."
Brandon said remembering all those people who made the place great, maybe now's the right time for a little Opryland.
"I hope this project provides some catharsis," he said. "I hope it brings people together in this divided world we live in. We can all agree this was a great thing, a southern thing, and celebrate it together. This documentary project is kinda like a family reunion. Anyone who grew up at the park, who walked to the park, who entertained at the park, we all share this time and place."
If you have some pictures or videos you'd like to share with Vestal for his documentary project, there are two ways to reach him. You can email him at email@example.com or go to his website here.
We'll keep you updated on where and when you can eventually see Vestal work.