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New to Strawberry Fest: Outdoor theater

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 June 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – The Three Little Maids performed in the Pratt Opera House last September. The group includes, from left: Maarit Vaga, Marsha Rivers and Kristi Phillips.

ALBION – Singers, dancers and theatrical performers – 115 people in all will take to the outdoor stage Saturday night to cap the Strawberry Festival.

Theatre on Main Street will be offered for the first time in the festival’s 27 years. A 20-by-24-foot stage will be set up on West Bank Street near Gotta Dance by Miss Amy. Local talent will perform from 7 to 10 p.m.

The initiative is a first of its kind between the National Park Foundation and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. They contributed grants to pay for the stage. Other local sponsors, including Albion Main Street Alliance and Five Star Bank, also helped bring the event to Albion.

“It’s going to be a family-fun event with a lot of local talent,” said Michael Bonafede, one of the coordinators of the event.

The National Park Foundation and Erie Canalway reached out to Albion for the theater program. The groups wanted a theatrical show with a historic theater as a backdrop.

Initially the program was targeted for Main Street, but it proved too difficult to shut down a state road for most of the day. Crews will start working Saturday morning to set up the stage on West Bank. The stage will have a canopy.

Bonafede and his wife Judith Koehler own the Pratt Opera House on Main Street. They have been working to restore the site from 1882, and expect to have a certificate of occupancy this fall as a “theater in the rough.” The National Park Foundation wants to see historic theaters rejuvenated, Koehler said.

Saturday’s program will provide a venue with a professional sound system. Spectators can watch the show in a historic downtown district. Some chairs will be available, but spectators are urged to bring a lawn chair.

The performers include: the Albion men’s and women’s select choruses, Spotlight Dance Company, The Bent Theater presents ‘The A List,’ Dance Reflections by Miss Heather, Lisa’s Dance Boutique, Erie Canal Sal, Dance Reflections, The Pratt Theater presents ‘Three Little Maids,’ Gotta Dance Academy and Performing Arts, and a Full Cast Fun Finale.