Historical community gathering places like the Sherbino Theater are closing down across the nation, but the newly-formed Ridgway Chautauqua Society (RCS) is working toward purchasing the old theater in order to keep it open as a community asset under the name "The New Sherbino."
The entire idea behind the RCS is to create a Chautauqua in this community. The Chautauqua movement began in the late 1800s and early 1900s as an adult education forum which brought entertainment and culture to the entire community by teachers, speakers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists sharing their knowledge. The New Sherbino Theater will be a hub for learning and entertainment based on the principles of Chautauqua.
After the White Horse Saloon closed last October, RCS began the campaign to Save the Sherbino with an Emergency New Year's Eve Party. Since then, numerous dance hall events have been hosted at the Sherbino, as well as private parties, fundraisers and the Ridgway Secondary School’s spring drama production.
Saving the Sherbino is more than just keeping the doors open; RCS is raising money for renovations to restore and modernize the theater so it can once again become a center for the community.
RCS is a community-based group with the mission of fulfilling Ridgway’s vision of creating an economically sustainable and ecologically responsible community where learning, creativity and culture are at its core. The New Sherbino will be a gathering place for the community to come and learn, explained Ridgway’s former mayor and chairman of RCS, Pat Willits.
“There's a lot of enthusiasm in the community to see the Sherbino rise again and become again the cultural hub of Ridgway that it once was. Our vision is to expand from dance hall music events we've been doing into listening concerts, film, lectures, poetry and plays. But the monthly cost to keep the doors open means we will continue to count on volunteers and donations to make the place succeed, and we appreciate all the help we can get in both those departments,” said Willits.
During the 12 years Willits was mayor he was approached multiple times by members of the community with requests that the town save the Sherbino, but Willits never felt it was a project for the town to take on. Now, as a private citizen, Willits and other notable figures in the community have joined together with the goal “to purchase, revitalize and operate the historic Sherbino Theater as a not-for-profit community center for theater, film and the performing arts. Events and programming include but are not limited to, music, theater, film, poetry, exhibitions, lectures and private rentals,” as stated in the RCS business plan.
The first stage of RCS’s Save the Sherbino campaign is to raise $30,000 as a start up budget to pay for the section 501(c)(3) (non-profit status) application, liquor license, bar set up and installing a new audio system. RCS has nearly reached this first milestone, through private donations and pledges.
The next phase of the plan includes raising an additional $50,000 to begin renovations to include new curtains, removable theater seats and a partial wall to enclose the viewing area, as well as some exterior renovations to the theater.
RCS has signed a one year lease with option to purchase.
RCS has section 501(c)(3) status, and the board of trustees includes Chairman Pat Willits, Vice Chairman Antonio Marra, Treasurer Don Kellogg, Secretary Jen Furano, Jonathan Allen, John Clark, Denise Gendreau, Bob Mann and Brian Scranton.
As a non-profit organization, RCS and Sherbino Theater's cash and in-kind donations qualify for the Enterprise Tax Credit. Donors giving $50 or more can receive a 25 percent tax credit on Colorado state income tax returns, and in-kind donations valued at $100 or above may be eligible for a 12.5 percent tax credit. A credit may also be available for gifts of stock and securities.
Colorado Yurt Company, formerly Earthworks Tipis, has donated a tipi to be raffled off as a fundraiser for RCS. The tipi is currently erected in Hartwell Park; raffle tickets are available at all events taking place at the Sherbino and were available at the Ridgway Concert Series.
History of the Sherbino…
In August 1915 the Ouray Herald was reporting on Ridgway’s newest building: “The new theater being erected by Louis Sherbino and son is nearing completion and will be ready for the opening show and dance the first week in September. The theater will be one of the most up-to-date on the Western Slope, with comfortable chairs, best of lighting fixtures, perfect ventilation and an ideal floor for dancing.” On opening night, 400 people attended from around the region, including Ouray and as far north as Delta.
Moving pictures were shown at the Sherbino for many years. One of the most popular in 1924 was “The Covered Wagon” which played to large crowds. Grover Huffnagle was running the theater at the time and complimentary tickets were presented to all pioneers who crossed the plains in a covered wagon.
The schools used the Sherbino for presenting their plays to the public, as well as for graduation and commencement. It was also used as a roller skating rink in the 1920s.
The Sherbino ran as a theater until the 1940s, when it is believed to have been boarded up, reopening as a roller skating rink in the 1960s. The large space was then converted to a storehouse and in the 1970s was used to manufacture tipis by Dan and Emma Kigar of Earthworks Tipis, now known as the Colorado Yurt Company. Various businesses and community events filled the walls of the Sherbino over the past 25 years. The Colorado Boy Brewery currently occupies a portion of the original theater.
…History provided by the Ridgway Chautauqua Society