Relighting Ceremony Warms the Heart of West Bend – Some 500 people poured into downtown West Bend to witness the switch being pulled to light up the two-story, perimeter-lit sign that also spells out the words “WEST BEND.” All 470 LED bulbs came alive at 6:30 p.m. Sept 5. Theatre president Nic Novaczyk invited all the children in the crowd to come up and lead the count-down: “ten, nine, eight, seven …. Let there be light!” The last lighting was in 1929 when the theatre was opened. Will the children ever forget this moment? Doubtful. Nor will the rest of us Proud Benders.
More than $12,000 Raised for Restoration – The community stepped up to buy a bulb for $100, a share of stock for $200 and a seat for $300. All were donations. The latest total is now more than $12,000. “This broad-based showing of support is heartwarming,” said Kine Torinus, theatre vice president and emcee of the lighting event.
Share Purchases Set the Spirit – The philosophy of the board of Historic West Bend Theatre Inc. (HWBT), a non-profit corporation, is that the community should feel it owns the restored theatre. “We want everyone to feel they own “The Bend,” said Novaczyk. So far, the community has purchased more than 40 shares of stock, even though, like the Green Bay Packers, there will never be any financial return. There are no dividends or capital gains. The framed certificate will provide lasting memories for generations.
Tip from the Leprechauns – A local Irish music group, Acme fiddling Co., was in downtown before the ceremony, and young musicians decided to join in the re-lighting ceremony. They played as the crowd was gathering before the re-lighting event and appreciated the ready-made audience. Then, sure and begorrah, after the event closed, they donated their tips to the cause. Will they play on our stage some day?
A Shout-Out for Former Theatre workers – Lester Hahn, former projectionist, recalled how strict Mr. and Mrs. Rollie Meade were when they ran the theatre. He got fired twice for being a few minutes late, but was always hired back. Also present at the re-lighting were three of the four Schommer brothers who worked there; Don Anderson, a former manager; Roger Strack; and Martha Hughes Wilson, who sold tickets in the ticket booth out front. She recalled that a boy who was delivering pizza was casting an eye in her direction when he passed by and ran into the stop sign. The incident made the paper.
Thank You, Greater Milwaukee Foundation – The foundation, which supports many causes in the metro area, awarded $50,000 to the theatre project last week. “That will help greatly in getting us from the red zone to the end zone for full funding of the restoration,” said Pat O’Connor, HWBT treasurer.