CRESTON — The Creston Opera House has been a gathering place for many years, holding a multitude of events from plays and benefits to bingo games and home to a church and the library. As renovations continue, the public is encouraged to see the progress and enjoy dinner this Fri., Sept. 15 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Built in the late 1800s, the building is rich in history. Although it was originally constructed as an opera house, it has served as Booster Hall since the organization purchased the building in the 1950s.
Booster Club member Dave Brown said the most recent upgrades include new electrical wiring, windows, a sound booth, and drywall on the first floor. Brown, a Booster Club member for over 40 years, said eventually they would like to host plays again. Plans also include installing a moveable stage. He shared some of building’s history.
“I’ve seen a lot of things happen to that building,” said Brown. “My wife can remember the kids used to roller skate in there. They’ve held bingo in there, had many events over the years…Christmas with Santa there several times.”
One of the surviving original members of the Booster Club, Morry Johnson, shared some fond memories of the glorious two-story structure that stands prominently in the center of town.
“That used to be where the coal room was, and on the outside of it were the doors that opened where the coal would come in that was used to heat the building,” Johnson said, pointing to where the bathrooms now are located in the basement level. “The club bought this in 1954 and after that we did all sorts of remodeling.”
Johnson, at 93 years old, also shared some early memories of Booster Days, which has been a tradition for over 60 years in Creston.
“We didn’t own Booster Park at the time, and we held Booster Days on the school grounds,” Johnson recalled. “We had to get all of the stuff, the chairs, the tents, from the American Legion in Lee and haul it to the school.”
Johnson said over the years the Booster Days has seen events come and go such as the wrestling and tractor pulls. One thing that has remained constant is the amusement rides, still to this day operated by the same company as it was 61 years ago.
Keeping it going
Johnson said another thing that has remained constant are the crowds coming to enjoy the carnival, food, and entertainment.
“In the first years we had very good crowds,” Johnson recalls. “We’ve always had good crowds since then too.”
Rumor had it 2016 was the last of Booster Days. Creston residents Lonie and Tonya Sarver stepped in to chair this year’s event, putting to rest any of the rumors. Lonie joined the Booster Club last year and admitted since taking on the project he now realizes the amount of work involved. Last year Brown chaired the event.
“There is a lot of stuff to do. I’m glad Dave [Brown] volunteered to be my mentor,” Lonie said. “Without Dave I would have been lost. There are things you don’t even think of. The advertising, stage, grounds crews, crafters, vendors, food kitchen, fireworks, the parade…”
As Lonie listed off the multitude of items involved in planning Booster Days he also said he believes it is his generation’s time to do the leg work, leaving Brown and the former organizers to have a much needed reprieve from their duties.
Tonya, along with husband Lonie, said Friday evening’s dinner is meant not only for the community to see the progress of the recent remodeling, but also serves as a chance for friends to meet for dinner and conversation.
“We thought it would be a great opportunity for everyone to get together for a nice meal, and thought by planning it the Friday kicking off Booster Day weekend would be great…like a reunion,” Tonya said.
Brown said the many people have fond memories of the building as so many different parties, benefits, and events have been held there over the years. The dinner will give a chance for everyone to see the progress too.
“All of the kids that are raised here and went to school in Creston are familiar with this building…all have had some type of event here,” Brown said. “And all of them talk about Booster Days. It sticks in their minds forever.”
The Sarvers are requesting any that wish to attend the dinner to please call 815-751-1482 to reserve a spot by Thursday evening. The dinner is $15 a plate and will be provided by JD's Back Porch Grill. Immediately following the dinner will be the Little Miss Creston Contest.