The 2019 Liberty Theatre Gala

Audience members raise bidding numbers at the Liberty Theatre Gala.

The Liberty Theatre raised $324,000 at this year’s Liberty Gala event Saturday evening. The funds brought the theater to a total of $1.62 million raised and a step closer to the capital campaign goal of $3.5 million, which will support external and internal renovations as the Liberty expands.

The multiyear campaign kicked off at last year’s gala, where $300,000 was raised. Jennifer Crockett, the theater’s executive director, was amazed to see the 2019 gala bring in even more money.

“It’s crazy,” she said. “Our goal going into this was $250” thousand, though when advance pledges started nearing $300,000, the team revised the goal and aimed to beat what they raised at last year’s gala.

Even with fewer guests and auction items than last year, this year’s gala exceeded all expectations. Combined pledges from before and during the event totaled about $315,000, Crockett said. The fundraising team is still calculating how much money was brought in by the raffle, but they estimate roughly $9,000, bringing the total to $74,000 more than the initial gala goal.

An elegant evening

About 150 people attended, dressed in their best to match the event’s elegant atmosphere. The local 46 North Farm decorated the setting in winter greenery, folk-Americana duo Siren Songs performed onstage and a special appeal by state Sen. Betsy Johnson rounded out the evening.

Now, the campaign approaches the halfway point of its funding goal.

“We know that parts of this campaign — to raise $3.5 million — is going to be hard. Capital campaigns aren’t easy. I think we’ve been really well supported this last year,” Crockett said. “But I know that the second half is typically the hard half.”

Breaking ground

Thanks to the campaign’s early success, the theater’s exterior construction is starting immediately.

“We are breaking ground on the front of the theater,” she said. “We’ll have to bring some people in through side doors for some shows and we’ll probably have to serve some concessions from folding tables in the lobby. You’ll see us a little dusty.”

The list of immediate next steps for the theater’s exterior includes plugging a water leak, repairing plaster, repainting, fixing the floor, replacing poster cases and more.

“Our historic chandelier has been restored and will hang. The box office is flipping around to the inside and the little kiosk is going to get power and heat so we can use it,” Crockett said. “Then, I believe, the very last piece will be the glass door.”

At the same time, construction on the concession stand will happen. Those improvements are scheduled to finish by early February.

“While all of that work is happening, now our attention is turning to the stage and the back area,” including the dressing room, Crockett said. “We’re finalizing plans with the architect for that, so that once we are done with the front and done with concessions we can start making the changes we need to the stage and the back areas.”

The plan is to have the entire renovation project completed by fall 2022.

“I am totally blown away,” Crockett said. “We have a really committed steering committee, we have consultants that are helping us. The community is really excited about this. I think we’re going to be able to do it. We have a lot of people that really want to see this project happen.”

Lucy Kleiner is a reporter for The Astorian. Reach her at 971-704-1717 or lkleiner@dailyastorian.com

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