TOWER- The gymnasium at Tower-Soudan Elementary was full at this year’s Lake Vermilion Cultural Center’s annual Midsummer fundraiser, but organizers are hoping that next year the entertainment …
TOWER- The gymnasium at Tower-Soudan Elementary was full at this year’s Lake Vermilion Cultural Center’s annual Midsummer fundraiser, but organizers are hoping that next year the entertainment will take place at the new cultural center on Tower’s Main Street.
While the historical church has been relocated onto a new foundation and the new lobby and entranceway are in place, the group’s board is now seeking donations and matching grants to fund the completion of the roof (tying the old roof into the new additions), installation of the new siding, and interior finish work.
Board member Nancy Larson noted they are working with several organizations to help identify sources of grant funding. It is estimated that an additional $500,000 is needed to bring the project to completion.
Clayton Halunen, an attorney from the Twin Cities (and lake home owner on Lake Vermilion) whose family has been a major donor to the project, spoke about the importance of arts to a growing community. The cultural center, when finished, will be a place to showcase the arts, including music, theater, and fine art.
“Art adds to our life,” he said.
He noted that his mother, a former art teacher, used to “drag” the family to museums when he was a child. “I didn’t like it but now I appreciate it,” he said.
“This is an exciting time to be in Tower,” he said, noting the anticipated developments around the city’s harbor.
“There is nothing like Lake Vermilion in the world,” he said. “This is my favorite place.”
Then Halunen got to the point. “I’m really up here to ask for money,” he said. “We want to build an arts community with studios, music, dance, and sculpture. Word will spread about this unique gem.”
Halunen urged everyone to give what they were able.
“We need to get this cultural center completed,” he said. “Be a leader to make Tower that special place.”
The fundraiser included a silent auction and the live auction of several vacation packages, including spots on a guided tour to Celtic England in August 2018 that will be led by Mary Batinich and Larry Reynolds.
LVCC Chair Mary Batinich noted this was the most successful Midsummer fundraiser to date.
The entertainment featured a large chorus with members from the Twin Cities and the Lake Vermilion area, along with guest performances by violinist Nicolas Mercure, who received a standing ovation for his Fiddler on the Roof medley. Seven-year-old Claire Jonas, of Tower, charmed the audience with her sweet rendition of “Tomorrow,” from the musical Annie. Dressed in the classic red dress, holding a stuffed toy dog, and donning a curly red wig, she hit all the right notes.
The theme of the night was “Seasons of Broadway,” and music director Janice Kimes highlighted songs from a variety of Broadway classics that focused on the changing seasons. The school stage was transformed and decorated with marquee posters from some of the featured musicals. Table decorations, created by Sulu’s, also echoed the Broadway theme, and the meal, catered by the Sawmill Saloon/BayView Lodge, featured several classic New York flavors.
Other soloists included Joe LaForte, a professional actor, singer, dancer from the Twin Cities whose family owns a cabin on Vermilion and a year round- home in Soudan. Joe is a member of Actors’ Equity Association, having worked and performed at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, in Mary Poppins, The Broadway Musical, Fiddler on the Roof, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Les Miserables, Singin’ in the Rain, West Side Story, and more. Joe has also directed and choreographed numerous community theater productions in the Twin Cities area. Joe holds a BFA in Photography and is completing a Master’s Degree in Project Management through Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.