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Opera House Society revels in success of 25-year refurbishment project


HOHS meeting

The Harrington Opera House Society met January 16, 2017, with the following present: Mark and Sheryl Stedman, Ed and Bunny Haugan, Gordon and Billie Herron, Linda Wagner, Carol, Marge Womach, Karen Robertson and Cherie MacClellan. Statistics were provided showing the Society’s income and expense totals for the 25-year project of renovating the 1904 Bank Block. No date was set for the 25th anniversary event.

The minutes and treasurer’s report were read and approved. An issue was made of the Avista bill for December which was $899.97. This would be much less if the upstairs windows were insulated. The woodwork needs to be removed, insulation installed and the woodwork replaced.

Concern was expressed regarding the effects of the freezing rain, the snow and the ability of the water to run off. Herron volunteered to work with the city to ensure that the roofs would drain properly. Heat tape will need to be checked to make sure that it was connected following construction. The toilet off the art room froze, and a heater needs to be installed there.

The “as-built” diagrams have been made available by architect Sue Lani Madsen for the building committee to approve. Madsen will put them on a thumb drive and Stedman will make prints to be placed with the elevator and in the office.

Piano lessons by Heather Safe have continued this winter and art lessons have been provided by Connie King. Fabric for extending the piano cover has not been ordered.

The last event at the opera house was the Parks Family, which went well, having had the arrangement with the Nazarene Church for rental for the event. Nick Clarke was a good resource working with the sound system. Discussion was held on potential events being scheduled. Dr. Kevin Hekmatpanah with his cello and accompanist has agreed to perform a concert of music of his favorite Russian composers on April 7. Heidi Muller, songwriter and contemporary folk musician, is scheduled to perform April 29. Unconfirmed potential events include Nicole Lewis, who sings and plays guitar with a unique country music flavor, and another potential event is an Irish Celtic Group with Bronagaene Griffin (fiddle), Johnny B. Connolly (accordion) and Cary Novotny (guitar/vocals). Secretary Linda Wagner, who manages the correspondence and scheduling, reminded the Society that they need to encourage the rental of the opera house for weddings, since it is a unique and beautiful venue. With the elevator now installed, relatives of the bride and groom would not have to manage the stairs.

The Society entertained the idea of a 25th anniversary event, but waiting for better weather seemed more appealing than a winter event. Annual reports were presented by various committees and acting President Billie Herron read her report, which is appended below.

Harrington Opera

House Society president’s report for 2016

The year 2016 is now behind us, and 2017 lies before us. As I reflect on the previous 12 months, my thoughts go back 25 years ago this week when a group from Harrington and Davenport met to discuss the possibility of restoring the Harrington Opera House. The roof was gone, rooms were in shambles and there was a 3-foot snow drift in the auditorium. Some shook their heads and said “impossible.” Others had a dream, and with the help of Ms. Douglas Rudkoff, the building was purchased for $1.00, and our work began.

We have had our ups and downs, but we have done something that is very rare in this day and age. We have never had a paid staff, we have never paid our members to do any work, and we were not afraid of hard work.

Of the in-kind hours I have been able to record, more than 15,000 hours of sweat and hard work has brought us to where we are today. Donations of items valued at over $90,000 have been given as in-kind items. Professional groups have donated over $84,000 worth of labor.

The actual cash spent on the building is over $720,000, of which $347,290 has been in the form of grants. The rest came from donations, events, memorials and memberships.

For every step back, we went two steps forward. And we did have some setbacks, but we never gave up. It is truly a labor of love for this wonderful historic structure that holds so much history in our small town. Built in 1904, what events it has seen. Always, she was the strong two-story building on the corner. She saw two world wars and several smaller ones, only to watch our soldiers leave and some not come back. Events were brought to the opera house during the Great Depression that brought joy during the broken economy. Laughter made it all bearable. And so the building stood, and it was the one stabilizing factor in a community torn by war and strife.

Who else could take $1.00 and turn it into a million-dollar building that will stand the test of time, as it has in the past. It has witnessed and wrapped its arms around plays, lectures, school programs, weddings, musical events and so much more.

Two of the items on our first list in 1992 were to install an elevator and purchase a grand piano for the stage. We close 2016 with those two items accomplished.

So, as I step back in the leadership role and look at the talented and able members to carry this forward, I must say how proud I am of all who worked so hard these past 25 years and who still hold that dream we have cultivated over the years.

As I leave, my only word of advice is to never give up and always keep your goal in front of you. And that goal is to provide the community of Harrington and surrounding areas, a place to come, shut out the problems of life and enjoy what we have to offer. We have been given a treasure and we must treasure it and take care of it. She is worth it!

Thank you all for the friendships we have created with each other that will last a lifetime.

Billie Herron, President, Harrington Opera House Society.


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