The iconic West Bend sign in front of the Historic West Bend Theatre will be re-lighted on Sept. 5, and the public is invited.
As part of the “Light Up the Bend” ceremony, the board of directors of Historic West Bend Theatre, Inc. (HWBT) asked members of the community to attend and help fund the renovation of the 1929 Art deco structure into a performing arts center and community gathering place.
“We have come a long way toward raising the necessary funds, a goal of about $3.5 million, but we need everyone’s help to reach that goal,” said Nic Novaczyk, HWBT president.
The relighting event will start at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday the 5th. Former employees of the theatre will be recognized. A short history will be presented. And the actual re-lighting will be at 6 p.m. The event will end by 6:30 p.m. when Music on Main kicks off.
Poblocki Sign Company took down the perimeter-lit sign over the marquee last December for a complete overhaul. Called “the blade,” it will to be re-hung in mid-August in time for the relighting on the 5th.
Supporters will have three ways to contribute to the restoration campaign. The first is to buy a bulb for $100 to help pay for the refurbished “blade,” selling out the words “WEST BEND” in capital letters with 470 bulbs, and the marquee, which is lit by an additional 194 bulbs, for a total of 664.
“Buy as many as you like,” said Novaczyk.
The second part of the campaign is the sale of shares in the non-profit corporation for $200 apiece. “It worked for the Green Bay Packers, and we hope the sale of stock works for the theatre,” said Dan Dineen, HWBT board member and corporate counsel.
The stock offers no dividends or capital gains. “But it does offer a sense of ownership in the restored community asset,” he added. “Buy as many shares as you like, one for the family or one for each family member. When you buy a share of “The Bend,” your name will be placed on our donor board.”
The shareholders can vote annually for one member of the board of directors. Twenty-four shares have already been sold.
The third community fundraiser is the sale of 325 seats at $300 apiece. The “Seat the Bend” dollars will allow the purchase of comfortable period-appropriate seats for many kinds of events.
There are 125 seats on the main floor and 200 seats in the balcony.
The original 1929 movie and vaudeville house had 400 seats on the main floor and 227 in the balcony.
Patrons can combine all three donations in a $500 package for one light bulb, one share of stock and one seat.
Contributors can make their donations on-line at www.historicwestbendtheatre.com or in person at the West Bend Academy of Music at 102 North Main Street, West Bend. Donations will also be accepted gratefully at the Sept. 5 event.
All donors will receive a booklet on the history of the former “movie palace.
“We want the community to feel like this theatre is their special place,” said Novaczyk.
The multi-purpose venue will be home to a wide variety of performances and events, so there will be a many different audiences. It will also be open as venue for many kinds of community events, such as reunions, business meetings and private parties.
The 90-year old building went dark in 2006. It will be re-open by early spring of 2020, the exact date depending on construction progress.
Major donors and foundations have stepped up to lead the restoration campaign. “That base was essential, but so is broad support from community members,” Novaczyk said.