There have been many changes in Gothenburg in the past 130+ years, and movies have played a big part in the progress of the community. They still do. Last week the theatre hosted a grand re-opening event to proudly show the community the newly “revitalized Sun”.
“This project began on May 15, and the contractor gave me a timeline of 90 days. So they came pretty close,” said Sun Theatre Manager Roxanne Converse-Whiting.
Converse-Whiting first launched a capital campaign to raise funds for the renovation when she was hired as manager in 2017. Fundraising projects including the Tour of Homes and extremely popular Dancing With the Stars, along with many generous private donations, got the project off the ground. Along with the funds raised at community events, the theater also received a $10,000 grant from the Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee, an anonymous $20,000 grant and $20,000 pledges each from Flatwater Bank and First State Bank.
In February 2020 Converse-Whiting announced that the renovation project was fully funded thanks to a Community Block Development Grant for Tourism matching grant awarded by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. Once the funding was in place it was full steam ahead on the project.
The newly renovated front lobby and bathrooms, as well as an accessible seating area in the auditorium, were revealed to the public on Saturday, Sept. 26, complete with tours. A special premiere event was held Friday evening, Sept. 25 to celebrate the Grand Reopening, with Lt. Gov. Mike Foley, Sen. Matt Williams, Mayor Joyce Hudson and other local dignitaries in attendance.
“You know a lot of communities who have a community theatre dating back to 1909 would say, ‘let go - move on’. But not Gothenburg, because you recognize what a jewel you have here,” said Lt. Gov. Foley. “It takes leadership and people willing to give back to their community - and that’s what you have in Gothenburg. What you’ve got here is so special.”
Sen. Matt Williams also addressed the crowd Friday evening. “Like many of you I have memories of this place too. My earliest memories of this place can’t be shared, because Joyce Hudson has many of those same memories,” the Senator shared among a roar of laughter. “There’s been a lot of memories made here and on this stage. You make a living by what you get - you make a life by what you give. Those words were said by Winston Churchill and I think about those words every day. Building lives for others requires dedication, commitment and giving. We have always challenged ourselves in this community to include dreaming - and dreaming big. I’m so proud to call Gothenburg home. This is our town.”
Mayor Joyce Hudson compared the theatre board to the “wheels on the bus” that just keep going round and round, and working and working. “They had a drive-by popcorn night, trailer concerts and outdoor theatre nights. Their wheels do keep turning, so I recommend if you see this bus coming that you get out of their way - because they’re not stopping!”
“What I love about this is that community is present here,” said Converse-Whiting. “We have kept community theatre alive here for all of central Nebraska for 111 years, and I’m very proud of that.”