TUPELO • Through the main offices of the BancorpSouth Arena, photos of the past adorn the hallways.
Tom Petty, Elton John, Aerosmith, Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson, James Taylor, Bob Dylan and a myriad of others that have performed at the venue are photographed with the main staff before they take the stage.
In almost all of them, you’ll find Jeanie Friday – and for good reason. Friday has been integral to the arena since nearly day one, having joined its staff in the box office in November 1993, just a month after it opened its doors.
But after 26 years of serving the community, the talent that comes through the arena and its patrons, Friday was Friday’s last as director of ticketing.
And she said retirement is going to agree with her.
“It’s sad,” she said. “But I’m excited to start a new chapter with my family. And I’m sure I’ll be back, in some capacity.”
She joined the then Tupelo Coliseum after receiving a call from the venue’s originator, Mike Marion.
“He called me and I was there,” Friday said. “I had worked with him for years before. I had gone back to school. I was in surgical tech school, in my clinicals and I just quit to be here. I knew if he called, it was worth coming for.”
Friday was named director of the box office in 1997 and has seen many changes to the facility over the past two decades.
“You work with so many different people over the years,” she said. “I’ve had five different bosses and we’ve always had a good crew here in the box office.”
But she said that no two days have ever been alike at the venue.
“Each show is different. We might have Disney on Ice every year, but it’s always a different experience with different customers and different people behind the scenes,” Friday.
And those celebrities she’s come in contact with over the years haven’t really fazed her.
“They’re people just like we are, really and truly,” Friday said. “I do remember being excited for Alice Cooper. I wanted to hurry up and finish in the box office and quick as I could so I could stand down there at the stage like a teenage girl from back in the day. I loved it.”
Friday said every experience has been geared toward putting on the best experience for the citizens of Tupelo and guests from the region.
“We just want to make sure the public has a good time because it’s all about them making memories of coming through here and enjoying the show.”
With changes over the years, technology has also shaped the way Friday’s role in the arena has expanded.
“That’s another reason it’s always different,” she said. “Used to, we had hard tickets. Everything was done by hand. Now it’s all online, all with the computers.”
While she said it’s been an experience to work with so many people, past and present, she’s looking forward to her first day of retirement today, and is already planning some excursions.
“I want to go zip lining,” Friday said. “I’ve never been and I think it’ll be a lot of fun.”
A lot of new features are headed to the arena – sans zip lining – when the venue undergoes renovations and expansion later this year, which Friday won’t be a part of due to her departure.
“That’ll be for a new generation,” she said.