In many ways, Thursday felt like 1971 all over again for Phillip and Carolyn Ferrell -- owners of the iconic Ferrell's Restaurant that has been a fixture in the community for nearly 90 years and has been closed since a September fire.

It was roughly 48 years ago in 1971 when the Ferrells officially bought the restaurant from Phillip's aunt and uncle. This time around, Carolyn said it has taken a little longer to get the doors reopened due to the fire, but the excitement is very similar.

"It took us about two weeks to close the deal in 1971," she told a crowd gathered outside the restaurant on North Main Street for the ribbon-cutting. "This time, it took exactly 105 working days from the time we decided to reopen after the fire to get to this point. So it's been a little different, plus we aren't as young as we were back in 1971."

Gathered with family, friends, employees and an enthusiastic crowd, Carolyn thanked all who have helped and encouraged her family as they reinvested in the business that has been such a big part of

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their family for so many years.

Among other speakers at the re-launch were Hopkins County Judge-Executive Jack Whitfield, Jr. and Madisonville Mayor Kevin Cotton. Both elected officials praised the Ferrells for their investment in the community and wished them continued success.

"Nobody is happier to see Ferrell's open back up than I am," said Cotton. "I have suits that don't even fit me any longer since you have been closed. My clothes are falling off of me."

For long-time employee Tammy Graham, the reopening was a day she has been eagerly awaiting for several months.

"This is home to me. These people are my family," said Graham, a 25-year employee at the diner, known for its burgers, chilli and breakfast. "I never had a doubt we'd re-open and I'd be back. It's a special day."

While officially not opening until 4 p.m. today to coincide with the city's Friday Night Live concert series downtown, Phillip Ferrell did fire up the grill in the name of charity Thursday as the first burger went to Reid Davis for $127 with the proceeds going to support the Hopkins County-Madisonville Public Library.

When asked how it tasted, Reid was quick to reply.

"I tell you what, I grilled myself a steak the other night and this burger is better," Davis said with a smile and a touch of ketchup on his face. "It was worth every penny."

Following Davis' lead, five more individuals anted up $127 for a burger and donated the money to the local library. Cotton and Whitfield were joined by Rufus Baker, Chris Findley and Ronnie Noel in eating the first burgers off the new grill and bringing the total donated to library to $762.

"This was a great day," said Carolyn. "I think we attracted more attention than the solar eclipse did a couple years ago."

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