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Zumbrota working to renovate a piece of history

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ROCHESTER, MN (FOX 47) -- When you are able to contribute to the bigger picture, it can often times by humbling and gratifying. In Zumbrota, the big picture is trying to renovate and revitalize the Zumbrota State Theatre. Roxanne Bartsh and Ronda Anderson-Sand, two spokeswomen for the theatre, stopped by “FOX in the Morning” to discuss what is happening with the history of Zumbrota.

“The 'Art on Main' project, is in its second year of this project that the Zumbrota Area Arts Council has put on,” explained Bartsh. “It's a way to bring art to downtown and also to raise money for our theatre. And, what we've done is asked local artists to donate a piece of art work this spring. We've taken that artwork and duplicated it, copied it, and put it on large, vinyl banners, that have been hanging on the street poles of Zumbrota, all summer long,” said Bartsh. People can then go online and either bid on the artwork, the original artwork, or the original banner. Additionally, we will have a number of live, artful experiences that we are going to auction off, in the form of a silent auction,” explained Bartsh. “The closing reception or our art gala, will be this Friday night, September 26th, in Zumbrota. It's going to be a great evening, fun music and just a great way to celebrate art in Zumbrota, while raising money for our theatre.”

Zumbrotans are passionate about their quaint community. That's why, according to Ronda Anderson-Sand, (who is the State Theatre Director), the Zumbrota Area Arts Council purchased the state theatre at the end of 2011 and have been running it for approximately the last two and half years. “We raised $350,000 from community members and others to purchase the theatre to begin renovations and do some needed updates, like replacing the roof. That's a big one. We got tired of moving buckets around to try and catch the water backstage,” said Anderson-Sand. “We're going to continue with that renovation process. We need to do some exterior improvements to the stucco, secure the outer envelope and then add on. Because our bathroom situation is dating back to 1921. So, we need some main floor accessible bathrooms,” Anderson-Sand said.

Anderson-Sand went on to explain that a great deal of Zumbrota's buildings, which still stand today, were built by a man with tremendous skill and vision. The theatre itself was designed in 1921 by Charles Lester Grover, who built and designed a lot of the churches and the really historic buildings in town. “He's has a long history with the state,” said Anderson-Sand. “He built the Itasca State Visitors Center and other downtown projects all across Minnesota. The State Theatre has been in operation continually since 1921. It started out as a vaudeville house and cinema. It was adapted for talking pictures. It was used for the Zumbrota High School plays in the 50's, and most likely in the 30's, 40's and 50's, before they had a high school auditorium. We have always used it for movies and now we are also using if for concerts and lectures,” explained Anderson-Sand.

So, why renovate and not renew? “I think Zumbrota is very proud of its history. It's a gorgeous little building,” believes Anderson-Sand. Inside, it's full of character. It's amazing how many times groups come in and they walk in and they say: 'Oh my goodness! I can't believe something like this still exists.' It's not fancy. It's not the 'Orpheum' in downtown Minneapolis, but it's really quaint and charming,” said Anderson-Sand. Roxanne Bartsh adds that: “Yes. It's got great character. It's also fun to have people come in and say they remember being at theatre when they were growing up or that their first date was at the theatre. We love the theatre.”

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