BARNESVILLE – The Barnesville State Theater opened its doors to the public for tours during the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival.
A non-profit group of determined residents have worked hard in recent months to restore the old State Theater, which closed permanently around 1969. The committee wanted to show the progress made in the middle of the festival by offering tours of the building and trying to raise funds. for continuous improvements.
A red carpet runs through the center of the lobby, surrounded by displays of theater memorabilia, photographs, and auction items on either side. Attendees are also greeted by the smell of a maker’s popcorn that has been donated for the occasion.
Committee chairman Roger Johnson said some of the memorabilia had been discovered while cleaning the theater and other pieces such as old movie posters had been donated.
During the tours, participants can enter and see the progress of what has been done so far in the building. The committee cleaned up the space and carried out renovations with plans to reopen the theater in the future.
“As you walk past the main entrance where the seats were, we have it partitioned off where people can come in and see what we’ve done,” he said.
Johnson said they have a number of items for sale and auction, with all proceeds benefiting the theater’s restoration.
Johnson said the tours have been well received. The visits began on Wednesday and will continue until Sunday. On the first date of the tour, he said, there was a ‘rush’ of people who came through the doors ready to take a look at the old theatre, which opened in 1925 Many shared their own story of seeing shows and movies when it was open.
“The interest has been incredible. Of course, everyone directly involved with it on the committee and the volunteers are all excited. Everyone is pumped,” he said.
“You can just walk in and ask questions, or you can come back on your own. If you have a question, we can stand by your side and answer all your questions.
Although there is still a lot of work to do, committee member Roger Johnson said they are making progress.
“We have the entire theater completely emptied of all debris. We have a new roof over the stage and part of the west side of the building where all the rain damage happened,” he said.
So far, the project has received approximately $160,000 in donations, which has enabled the committee to undertake roof repairs. In addition to accepting donations, the committee is always looking for volunteers. Johnson said he’s had a great response so far on a sign-up sheet that has garnered about 20 signatures from residents interested in helping out.
Johnson said if donations keep coming in and they’re able to get grants, they could open in the next three to five years.
Theatrical visits are open from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. until the last day on Sunday.