When two musical events were planned in downtown Marshall on the same night, it became necessary to invent a new outdoor performance venue and outdoor cinema. Enter Bo Ellis and Marshall Main Street, a group accustomed to doing a lot with a little. Marshall is now host to an outdoor movie and music venue for the community.
Just a couple of blocks off the courthouse square, well within walking distance of the historic downtown area, stands a city-owned building being used for storage the old SWEPCO building, or the "pink Alamo" as it is referred to by some because of the distinctive design of its faГ§ade.
"I thought the loading dock would make a great stage. It's the appropriate size and appropriate height and depth for a stage and, with it backing up to the building, the dock makes the perfect stage setting. It really sets up ideally," Ellis said.
That's where the April 23 Battle of the Bands, hosted by East Texas Baptist University, will take place. It will also be home to outdoor films for Marshall families.
Meanwhile, the downtown area will be transformed into a "block party of sorts" with a concert by Rebecca Henricks and the Slackers in conjunction with the Texas Master Gardener Conference from April 23 to 25.
Ellis explained that most activities in the downtown area have traditionally taken place in the 200 block of North Washington Avenue simply because the infrastructure is already there with electricity and such readily available.
"Over the last couple of years that's where we've had the Symphony League and the Jeans 'n Classics events. That's also where we do Second Saturday," he said. "It's kind of evolved into that being the area where we have our activities."
But, with two music-related events in such close proximity, there would obviously be some sound problems.
"We needed to make sure that we accommodate the Master Gardeners but, at the same time, it's long been a goal of a lot of people in Marshall to entertain our college students in our downtown area," Ellis said. "We needed to find an alternate location and we really didn't have a whole lot of options available. Our goal was to provide a place for the Battle of the Bands without ETBU incurring a cost."
Because of scheduling conflicts at ETBU, the Battle of the Bands could not be rescheduled.
"As city staff, we have a very rich history of adaptive reuse of historic buildings in our downtown area. Examples would be Weisman's Department Store, the old city laundry that's now the Marshall Visual Art Center, and the old Holly Motor Co. building that's now the Business Development Center that MEDCO runs. These have all been projects of city staff over the years," Ellis said.
"Continuing that same logic, and also working toward meeting our goals in downtown revitalization and also the goals set forth in Destination Development's tourism plan, we began working on the old SWEPCO building to become Marshall's newest outdoor performance venue."
In addition to the ready-made stage area, the building offered other amenities, according to the Main Street manager.
"There's a nice, level parking area in front of the loading dock that will be perfect for an audience," he explained. "Plus, the adjacent grassy area makes a perfect place for people to put lawn chairs and blankets and be able to lounge and have a really neat atmosphere for that type of activity."
Ellis said he got the OK from City Manager Frank Johnson to move ahead with the project, then started looking at what kind of equipment he had and "what I could piece together" to make the event happen.
"Luckily, the Main Street program already owns an inflatable movie screen with sound equipment and a mixing board that we could make use of," he said. "Randy Pritchard, the city's information technology director, has made some wireless microphones available and we anticipate some of these bands having some of their own stuff.
"It's definitely a collaborative effort but most of the projects that I work on tend to be that way because we don't have a very big budget," Ellis continued. "We end up begging and borrowing and piecing it together and making it work."
Ellis said city staff has been working on getting the facility and adjacent grounds cleaned up and in condition for the April 23 event. In addition, he and Meagan Smith, director of student activities at ETBU, have been working out the details of the battle.
"We kind of envisioned the bands starting around 6 p.m. How long each will perform will depend upon how many bands are participating," Ellis said. "We're figuring on music from 6 to about 9 p.m.
"And, since we're going to have the sound equipment out anyway, we thought we might as well set the inflatable screen up and show a movie as well," he continued. "By about 9 o'clock it should be dark so we can really just spin the audience and everyone will be able to watch an outdoor movie.
"We're hoping to be able to entertain for a very nice, long evening."
Excerpt from "New outdoor venue under way" by Steve Bandy -News Messenger. Read full article at: http://www.marshallnewsmessenger.com/news/content/news/stories/2008/041209_web_swepco.html