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Rebuilding A Piece Of Southeast Nebraska History, Bonham Theatre, Fairbury Nebraska

Rebuilding A Piece Of Southeast Nebraska History

For 86 years, the Bonham Theatre has been an entertainment staple in Fairbury, Nebraska. Known in its earlier days as ‘the showplace of Southeast Nebraska’, the theatre opened in 1926 as a vaudeville stage and movie theatre and has since drawn residents from Fairbury, Jefferson County and surrounding areas such as Northern Kansas. So when the theatre was forced to close its doors in August of 2012 due to a lack of funding for the digital conversion of projection equipment, Fairbury residents and theatre goers alike decided to take action.

“There was much concern because it was one of the only entertainment venues that there is in town other than things related to the school system,” said Debby Ebke, Treasurer of the Bonham Theatre Project.

According to Ebke, the closure of the theatre had a huge impact on the community. Not only did residents lose one of the only entertainment venues in town (the local bowling center also closed in 2013), but the entertainment opportunities available for youth has significantly diminished. Maintaining and recruiting families and professionals to the area has also become more difficult and less traffic in downtown Fairbury has hurt businesses near the theatre.

However, shortly after the theatre closed, a group of Fairbury citizens formed a non-profit organization called the Bonham Theatre Project (BTP) with one goal in mind; bring the historic theatre back to life. Since then the organization has been able to purchase the theatre and fundraising efforts are well under way to rehabilitate and reopen the theatre.

TransCanada is one of the many organizations who have stepped up to help this key project move forward. The Keystone Projects team donated $15,000 this year and plan on donating another $10,000 next year to assist with the revitalization of the historic theatre. Ebke says the response from organizations has been great and that the project wouldn’t be possible without some major players involved.

“We couldn’t do this project without some of the support from the larger organizations, such as TransCanada and I do know this is one more way that TransCanada can show that they are being a good neighbor to us in Nebraska…” said Ebke.

TransCanada has had operations in Nebraska since the early 1980’s and in particular, has close ties to Fairbury and Jefferson County – the original Keystone Pipeline already crosses through the county and the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would do the same. Getting involved and showing our support for the areas we operate is an important part of TransCanada’s culture. Our donations to the communities along our pipeline routes are much more than just donation’s, they are about showing the communities that we care and that we are committed to being a good neighbor.

Mark Johnson, Community Relations Advisor for TransCanada, says one of the enticing things about being involved in the Bonham Theatre Project is its history and impact it has had on the community.

“The theatre has some great history and this project fits perfectly with our company’s goal of helping to build stronger, more vibrant communities in the areas where we work and live,” says Johnson.

BTP has big plans for the future of the theatre. The money raised will go towards rebuilding the theatre into a reasonably priced art and entertainment venue that offers patrons things such as movies, video game playing, live streaming of concerts and events, live events, and rental opportunities for parties and receptions. Ebke says the donation from TransCanada could go towards something extra special for the theatre.

“I think we are on track to raise enough money to cover the basic core ADA, fire, safety and all the reopening code things… the TransCanada gift can maybe allow us to do something extra, something special, like new balcony seating,” said Ebke.

First National Bank Donates $10,000 to Bonham Theatre Project, Fairbury Nebraska

First National Bank Donates $10,000 to Bonham Theatre Project

Neighbors helping neighbors definitely describes the continued generosity of The First National Bank-Fairbury and the Pfaff family with their recent $10,000 contribution to the Bonham Theatre Project.  As supporters of the Bonham Theatre Project from its inception, this $10,000 donation completes the $50,000 matching grant from The Sherwood Foundation, which was offered to BTP in April 2014.

Their initial $1,000 contribution aided BTP in formally organizing as a nonprofit corporation.  Additional contributions totally $15,000 assisted in the acquisition of the building and contents.  “The real effort is not in providing the financial support, but in the people who come together in turning a vision into reality,” said Tiffany Pfaff.

The Pfaff/Burkley connection to the Bonham Theatre goes back to its establishment.  Barbara (Burkley) Pfaff is the great-niece to Luther Bonham, the namesake of the Bonham Theatre and in 1913 co-owner of the newly consolidated First National Bank of Fairbury.  In 1926 Luther Bonham, as President of FNB, put together financing to construct the Bonham Theatre in conjunction with local investors and Universal Production Company.

Revitalizing Fairbury with a theatre is both a business and personal interest to the Pfaffs.  “The continued existence of Fairbury and its residents has been the main priority to us through every generation of our family,” said Vernon Pfaff.  “This is something that we also strive in helping our surrounding communities as well.”

“We are extremely grateful for the financial support of Vern and Barb, (daughter) Tiffany, The Burkley Family Fund, and The First National Bank,” said Brooke Schwab, president.  “In a small town, we have to depend on each other because our futures are interconnected.  It is reassuring to know the Pfaffs share this vision.”

$225,000 awarded for Bonham Theatre Project in Fairbury, Nebraska

$225,000 awarded for Bonham Theatre Project in Fairbury

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) has awarded the City of Fairbury with $225,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding in the Tourism Development category to renovate the Bonham Theatre.

In turn, the City will award the funding to the Bonham Theatre Project (BTP), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit association that has secured financial support and contributions from foundations, businesses, and local individuals.

Additional funding of $553,834 from BTP, including challenge grant awards from the Peter Kiewit Foundation and The Sherwood Foundation, and pledges supported by state tax credits awarded through DED’s Community Development Assistance Act, will complete the project.

Renovations will include removal of materials and architectural barriers that restrict mobility of and accessibility by elderly and persons with disabilities. Additional renovations will include the installation of ramps and handicap viewing platforms, easier access to the lobby, fire protection measures, plumbing, restrooms and electrical work.

The refurbishment and reopening of the Bonham Theatre is expected to attract regional audiences from southeast Nebraska and northern Kansas for quality activities, including movies, theater productions, art showings and educational workshops. Additionally BTP is expected to help anchor Fairbury’s historic and social appeal as it is surrounded by lodging properties, and dining and shopping venues, all within walking distance.

The theatre operated for 86 years from the day its doors opened in 1926 until it was shuttered at the end of 2012. For many years it lived up to its name “the Showcase of Southeast Nebraska.” However, when faced with the high costs of transitioning to digital projection in 2012, the owners made the difficult decision to close the theatre. Soon after, Fairbury citizens organized and formed BTP.

Federal funds are made available to DED from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s CDBG program to assist with the development of businesses and communities throughout the state. Funding requests for the program are administered by DED and available to local governments with populations less than 50,000 and counties in Nebraska.

For information about the Fairbury project, contact Sharyl Preston, City Clerk, at (402) 729-3906 or

For information about CDBG Tourism Development funding, contact Steve Charleston at 800-426-6505, (40) 471-3757, or

Union Bank and Trust Donates $10,000 to Bonham Theatre Project, Fairbury Nebraska

Union Bank & Trust Donates $10,000 to Bonham Theatre Project

Union Bank & Trust donated $10,000 to assist the revitalization efforts of the historic Bonham Theatre.  The funds, which will be disbursed over a 2 year period, will help the non-profit group reach their fundraising milestone to begin renovations.

“Fairbury has a rich history, and the Bonham Theatre is a key part of that” said Jen Walton, Branch Manager.  “With the support of the entire community, the Theatre can once again be an active part of Fairbury’s downtown area.”

Debby Ebke, Treasurer of the Bonham Theatre Project, stated, “We’re very encouraged by the support of Union Bank & Trust, and all of our area businesses.  By coming together, we are truly a stronger community.”

Union Bank & Trust Company is a privately owned, Nebraska bank that offers complete banking, lending, investment and trust services. The bank has thirty-six full service and loan production offices in Nebraska and Kansas. In addition to Fairbury and Lincoln, branches are located in nineteen Nebraska communities and the Kansas City metro area. It is the third largest privately-owned bank in Nebraska with bank assets of $2.8 billion and trust assets of $13.9 billion as of June 30, 2014.

Best Choice Save-A-Label Program Benefits Bonham Theatre, Fairbury Nebraska

Best Choice Save-A-Label Program Benefits Bonham Theatre

Ray’s Apple Market in Fairbury and Best Choice products now make it easier than ever to donate to the Bonham Theatre Project. Fundraising for The Bonham Theatre Project is easy, thanks to the Best Choice label program. Already, more than 11,000 groups are cashing in, using the Save-A-Label program.

The Save-A-Label program is an extremely successful program, which helps non-profit organizations raise money. Currently, there are over 11,000 non-profit groups that participate in the program. These groups earn $.03 for each Best Choice UPC symbol redeemed, with a minimum of 1,000 labels required for redemption. This program represents more than 1.2 million cases of Best Choice products purchased by consumers in one year. “We have thousands of Best Choice products at our store, and they’re all national-brand quality, but at 10% to 20% under the national price. We believe Best Choice is a best-bet for your fund raising needs,” according to Ron Winslow, manager.

Start collecting Best Choice product labels, (be sure to keep the UPCs or “proofs of purchase”) and turn them in at the customer service counter. “The program is all set up and ready to go – just drop off your labels and we take care of the rest,” according to Michelle Hoffman, Ray’s Apple Market employee and Bonham Theatre Project volunteer.

The Bonham Theatre Project is a non-profit organization whose mission is to reopen the historic Bonham Theatre in downtown Fairbury.

Westin Packaged Meats Donates $5K To Bonham Theatre Project, Fairbury Nebraska

Westin Packaged Meats Donates $5K To Bonham Theatre Project

Westin Packaged Meats of Fairbury announced this week that it will donate $5,000 to the Bonham Theatre Project (BTP) as part of their ongoing commitment to the project. Westin Packaged Meats is a subsidiary of Westin Foods, an industry leader in the production of bacon bits, with two plants located in Fairbury.  According to Ron Schacht, Fairbury Operations General Manager, “We want to see the Bonham Theatre Project successfully complete the renovations of the theatre so that the citizens of Fairbury will once again be able to enjoy movies here.”

Since April, the Bonham Theatre Project has been active in securing matching grant monies from various sources including The Sherwood Foundation ($50,000). According to BTP treasurer Debby Ebke, “We have contributions and fundraising dollars since The Sherwood Foundation match began on April 17th totaling $21,173. Therefore, we still need $28,827 to earn those matching funds.”  She added,  “Donations of $1,000 or more have a triple benefit beyond helping the Bonham Theatre Project.  They are tax deductible, they are matched by The Sherwood Foundation, and they earn the donor a 40% Nebraska income tax credit.”

According to BTP president Brooke Schwab, now is a great time to donate to the Bonham Theatre Project. “A set of plans has been finalized that will return the theatre to its former glory and donating to this project will not only benefit the donor financially, but contribute positively to the quality of life in our community, long into the future.”

The mission of the Bonham Theatre Project is to rehabilitate and reopen the historic Bonham Theatre as an arts and entertainment venue in downtown Fairbury. For more information log on to or on Facebook.

Bonham Theatre, Fairbury Nebraska

Bonham Theatre Project Announces Donor Tax Credit

For the Bonham Theatre Project, good news arrived recently with two significant monetary plans, which will help generate fundraising momentum to renovate the historic Bonham Theatre in downtown Fairbury.

Bonham Theatre Project has received approval from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development  (DED) for qualification of the renovation of the Bonham Theatre under the Community Development Assistance Act (CDAA).  CDAA empowers DED to distribute a 40 percent (40%) state income tax credit to businesses or individuals who make eligible contributions to approved community betterment projects.

Bonham Theatre Project gathered pledges during the month of April to demonstrate community commitment to DED.  Fulfilled pledges will generate the tax credit, as will new contributions.

Any person or business that donates $1,000 or more is eligible for the credit.  For 2014 only cash and commodity donations will qualify.

The minimum donation is $1,000 and the maximum is $62,500.  The credits will be allocated by Bonham Theatre Project on a first-come, first-served basis until the $25,000 income tax credit limit is reached.  Bonham Theatre Project can apply to DED for additional credits if significant interest warrants.

$1,000 donation X 40% = $400 state income tax credit
$5,000 donation X 40% = $2,000 state income tax credit
$10,000 donation X 40% = $4,000 state income tax credit

After making an eligible contribution to Bonham Theatre Project the business or individual must complete and submit Form CDAA1 to DED, along with proof of the contribution.  DED will then send the contributor copies of the completed Form 1099NTC to be attached to the contributor’s state income tax return.  Bonham Theatre Project will assist in providing the needs forms to file.

The credit must be claimed on the income tax return for the year in which the contribution is made.  Any tax credit balance may be carried over and applied against the tax liability for the next five years immediately succeeding the tax year in which the credit was first properly claimed and allowed.

Additionally, Bonham Theatre Project has also been awarded a $50,000 challenge grant by The Sherwood Foundation to address fire, life safety, and ADA requirements.  The Sherwood Foundation will match the next $50,000 raised by Bonham Theatre Project with a contribution of $50,000.

“These two developments are exciting news for Bonham Theatre Project,” said treasurer Debby Ebke.  “Each $1,000 contributed to Bonham Theatre Project will qualify the donor for state income tax credit in addition to generating a matching contribution. For example: a $1,000 donation will not only yield the donor a state tax credit of $400, but it will be matched for a combined $2,000 benefit to Bonham Theatre Project – a win-win scenario for all.  Bonham Theatre Project is very grateful for the support of DED and The Sherwood Foundation”

Boham Theatre Project Recieves Matching Contributions, Fairbury Nebraska

Boham Theatre Project Recieves Matching Contributions

Bonham Theatre Project is the recent beneficiary of a combined $5,000 donation from Brian and Sabina Coordsen and Phillips 66.  The Coordsens contributed $2,500, which was matched by Brian’s employer, Phillips 66.

“My wife and I grew up in and around Fairbury and we went to many movies at the Bonham,” said Brian.  “We’ve also taken our kids to movies at the Bonham when back in Fairbury visiting family so they could enjoy it too.  We gave because the project is a great cause.”

According to Community Investments spokesperson Rhea King, Phillips 66 recognizes that its employees are the company’s best liaisons with communities.  “Offering a lucrative matching gift program that allows employees and retirees to double the impact of their donations encourages support and involvement in nonprofit organizations,” said King.

“BTP is very appreciative of employee/employer matching programs,” said Debby Ebke, BTP treasurer.  “I am happy to work with any company to qualify for matching contributions.”

Previously, BTP received $1,000 each from Tyler & Michelle Stewart and The Toro Foundation.  The Toro Company, Exmark Manufacturing in Beatrice, employs Michelle.

About Phillips 66:  Built on more than 130 years of experience, Phillips 66 is a growing energy manufacturing and logistics company with high-performing Midstream, Chemicals, Refining, and Marketing and Specialties businesses.  This integrated portfolio enables Phillips 66 to capture opportunities in the changing energy landscape.  Headquartered in Houston, the company has 13,500 employees who are committed to operating excellence and safety.  Phillips 66 had $50 billion of assets as of Dec. 31, 2013.  For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter @Phillips66Co

Bonham Theatre Surveys Distributed This Week, Fairbury Nebraska

Bonham Theatre Project Announces Results of Community Survey

In March, 2013, the Bonham Theatre Project Board of Directors contacted the UNK Center for Rural Research & Development (CRRD) about conducting a community survey in Fairbury and the surrounding area. The Board drafted some key project planning and development issues regarding community needs and market feasibility for the rehabilitation of Fairbury’s historic movie theater. The questionnaire was finalized in April 2013 and was divided into four areas of interest including: 1) Demographics, 2) Show Preferences, 3) Attendance Expectations, and 4) Other. All surveys were mailed on April 26, 2013. Surveys collected by May 17, 2013 were electronically scanned using University equipment and software. Funding for the survey was provided in part by a grant from the Sherwood Foundation.

Over 1,272 people returned a survey regarding their preferences for shows and attendance of the proposed redeveloped historic Bonham Theatre. The survey was completed by 232 junior or high school students and 1,040 household representatives age 19 and older. The data shows that just under half of the Fairbury area residents who responded would attend entertainment events at least 1?2 times a month or more. 2D or 3D movies were reported as the most popular type of show (75% definitely or probably attending) with 72% of respondents that would definitely or probably attend live plays, and concerts and comedians recorded 70% in the positive.

The youth demographic age group (age 14?18) shows stronger support regarding general movie attendance compared to the largest group of older survey respondents (age 55 and over).
More than half of all residents reported a willingness to drive more than 15 miles. Movies rated G, PG, and PG13 received slightly more support than R rated movies. Fridays and Saturdays had the highest preferences for attending evening movies based on the day?of?the?week. But, Sunday received slightly more support for attending an afternoon matinee.

Sixty percent (60%) of respondents preferred digital projection, with live streamed concerts receiving the most support at 53% definitely or probably planning to attend this type of venue at the theatre. Nearly half of the people had interest in hosting birthday parties at the theatre.

“The results of the survey give us confidence that the community will not only support the theatre, but give us direction as to the types of entertainment they want to see there,” according to board member, Julie Katz. “The survey results will be used as a basis for drafting a plan for the rehabilitation of the historic theater by identifying the renovations required to adequately serve the community and ensure the viability of the Bonham The