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.