This year the Sherbino Theater in Ridgway turns 100 years old. The theater is known for the musical acts and guest lecturers it brings to the Western Slope. On Friday, there will be an anniversary celebration at the theater that includes vaudeville style performances, silent films and of course a birthday cake.
"The building was built by Louis Sherbino," said Patrick O’Leary, the president of the Ridgway Chautauqua Society. The community group runs the Sherbino.
"He built the theater so that his son and daughter-in-law would have a place to play," said O'Leary. "His son was a fiddle player."
When the venue was first built in 1915, people entered the theater by first walking through the Sherbino Drugstore.
"And you would enter in the drugstore and you would buy your tickets, but you would also be exposed to the candy and soda fountain," he said. "And you would come into a door over here into the middle of the theater and take your seat for the silent film."
Over the years, the building has changed hands and served many purposes. It was even a roller rink at one point.
"And, of course it’s always been the gathering place in town," said O'Leary. "I understand from the local papers at the time that 300 people came here to hear that the United States had just entered World War I."
In the winter of 2009 the Sherbino closed. After that, it reopened as a saloon, but closed again in 2011.
In December of that year, community members banded together to take over managing the theater. That group later became the Chautauqua Society. The organization now owns the Sherbino.
"What I think is really compelling about that and what’s different about it this time around in terms of bringing this theater back to life is for the very first time the historic building itself will be in the hands of a community-based nonprofit," he said.
Ashley King, the executive director of the Sherbino, said the theater’s programming draws a wide crowd.
"Music enthusiasts love the Sherbino because it’s a place to listen to live music," said King. "Poetry enthusiasts love the Sherbino because it’s a place to listen and share live poetry. Lecture enthusiasts love to come and learn more about the other people that live in this community or in this region."
Some well-known figures and musical acts have come to the theater including singer Mollie O’Brien, pianist Doris Merritt and author Craig Childs.
This year the Sherbino marks its 100th anniversary.
And, over the next several years, the Chautauqua Society plans to repair and renovate parts of the theater.
The group plans to double the size of venue and add a second story. The project have an estimated price tag of $2.25 million. A capitol campaign is in the works to raise the funds.
O’Leary said he's hopeful about the Sherbino’s future and says the most important thing is 'to keep the lights on and the shows going.'