FAIRMONT– Fairmont Opera House’s upcoming Memorial Weekend Streetfest kicks off an entire season of events hosted by the historic performing arts theatre.
Executive Director Blake Potthoff said they’ve been throwing something of a Memorial Day block party since 2017. The early years were south of the Opera House, but the later ones were more downtown- city.
“It’s always been community driven” said Potthoff.
The two-day event kicks off Friday night and includes a variety of live shows and kid-friendly activities. Potthoff said he spent about six months planning the event, which involves lining up performers, food vendors and recruiting corporate sponsors.
The evening shows by the Ron Keel Band and the Mason Dixon Line are geared more towards adults, but there are certainly daytime family-friendly events and entertainment from the Koo Koo Kanga Roo and Squonk bands.
“Everything I do here at the Opera, you can go elsewhere, but we don’t want that to happen. We don’t want people leaving town to go to big cities to see them. Sometimes , the entertainment we have here on our stage is the same, if not better,” said Potthoff.
He said they advertised the streetfest in towns like Albert Lea, Mankato and Spirit Lake, IA to attract people to Fairmont.
“We want them to visit our restaurants, see the lakes and visit downtown and see what a great community it is,” said Potthoff.
What is very remarkable is that the entire weekend event is free. This is thanks to a major grant from the Schmeeckle Foundation and funds from the Rosen family. The opera also invests money in the event.
At Streetfest, an information booth will be set up with information on all other upcoming Opera events, including many.
Potthoff said he’s seen an increase in rentals, which is exciting for them. They have organized bachelor parties, bridal showers and birthday parties.
“We are here to make things happen. We want people to dream big and when they dream they think of Opera and how it fits into it,” said Potthoff.
They help with light and sound production for other events, including the unveiling of Going Hog Wild this Thursday, and have also DJed at other community events.
“When people start thinking of us to organize events and help plan events, it’s fun for us”, said Potthoff.
After Memorial Day weekend, the Opera will continue with a variety of events held over the summer months. Auditions for FACT (Fairmont Area Community Theatre) are currently taking place for the summer production of “Shrek the Musical.”
“If you’re interested in being part of it as a whole, we’ll absolutely take you on. My running joke is if you can or can’t dance, can or can’t sing or can or can’t talk, we’re looking for you. laughed Potthoff.
Show times are the week of July 21-24 and July 28-31.
The Opera Youth Theater Camps are also coming up in June. Potthoff said it was more of a fine arts camp than a production like what has been done in the past. Participants will learn about props, lights, costume design, music and dance.
“It’s a complete experience. You cannot find a camp that covers the same duration and breadth of education until you go to Children’s Theater Camp in the Twin Cities,” said Potthoff.
There will be three theater camps for young people. A camp for K-2 students will take place June 13-17. A camp for students in grades 3 to 5 will take place from June 13 to 24 with a performance of “Princess and the Ogre” June 25 and 26.
Finally, a camp for students in grades 6 to 12 will take place from June 27 to July 15 with a performance of “Shrek the Junior Comedian.” July 16 and 17.
Potthoff said that for both adult and children’s theater productions, they try to be flexible with people’s schedules and try to reduce stress and pressure.
Potthoff acknowledged that the Opera has done a lot *more* lately. He said FACT coordinator Samantha Rosenberg on board was a big help as it allowed them to expand the offerings.
“We have gone from one community theater performance per year to six and one children’s theater event per summer to three per year,” said Potthoff.
The Opera also held a community event almost every month. They opened their space during the holidays for Halloween and Christmas themed events.
“On the 4th of July, we are having a party in the parking lot. We’ll have grills set up and we’ll play
music. People can bring their own meat to grill and drinks to go out,” Potthoff said.
The event will cost $10, but the perk is that attendees will be able to park in the Opera House parking lot for the fireworks display that night.
Another exciting and new event for the Opera this summer is that it will host “Martin County Sings”, Tuesday night of the Martin County Fair. Potthoff said it was part of “Minnesota sings”, which is an amateur music contest.
There will be two age groups, 13-20 and 21+. Two participants from each division will be sent to the national competition in New Ulm, which will take place on October 1 and 2. Prizes include $20,000 in cash, recording sessions and musical equipment.
” We can not wait to be there. We just need people to participate,” said Potthoff.
Potthoff said they really have always built to offer so many events, but everything has been put on hold for the past two years due to Covid.
“We were building for this and now we are finally getting there,” he said.