By: Wanda Payne
Thanks to the efforts of a small band who fought the good fight, Heritage Hall became a reality on September 25, 2005. The Magnificent Seven included Evelyn Cook, Howard Elvidge, Robert Hotchkiss, Judy McGuire, Lewis May, Romayne St. John, and Joan Trathen who made up the Oversight Committee and worked diligently for over a decade. The dream for a performance venue in Mountain City finally came true. Some time during the groundwork proceedings, the committee was joined by a team of volunteers who manned the many battle stations needed for this grandiose project.
This small army raised funds by selling almost 400 memorial seats and promoting pledges, along with producing and selling a cook book. Meanwhile, the Oversight Committee was writing grants and lobbying for local and state government funding. The Northeast Correctional inmates performed invaluable tasks, including the construction, renovation, and even art work needed to make the dream a reality. A couple of last minute requirements that blindsided the group were a handicap access ramp and a sprinkler system to meet the fire code throughout the building. For these even more funds had to be raised, but the little band dug in their heels and kept their eyes on the prize.
Now the volunteers continue to raise funds with a yearly bake sale whose profits are used to provide a free Barter show for over 700 school children along with an affordable evening performance for families each February. They also solicit funding from the community with a Curtain Raisers campaign each summer and by writing grants for special projects such as a symphony, an award-winning Christmas show, or a handicap ramp. Due to the generosity and community commitment from local merchants and organizations that sponsor events, they are also able to provide quality programming at reasonable pricing.
The Heritage Hall team is still striving to improve the facility with contemporary sound and lighting, removal of large columns, a wing expansion for both sides of the stage, an electronic marquee, a massive awning at the main entrance, and a handicap ramp for the stage. After ten years, due to their passion and perseverance, the dream is still alive; support continues to grow, and the band of volunteers maintain this place that has given many local artists and students a venue to present and enjoy the performing arts with their neighbors and peers.
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