O.P.E.R.A., Inc. 'Next Step' fund drive exceeds $50,000 goal; more than $73,000 donated for Ellendale Opera House restoration work

O.P.E.R.A., Inc.'s latest fund drive to raise money for restoration of the historic Ellendale Opera House totaled $73,125, surpassing the "Next Step" fund-raising goal of $50,000.

The fund drive began in May and concluded Friday, Oct. 15 with a public reception and celebration in the Opera House Lobby & Gallery.

O.P.E.R.A. – Organization of People in Ellendale for Restoration of the Arts – is a non-profit organization formed in 1992 to save the 112-year-old building from the wrecking ball.

"We're very thankful to all those who pitched in to help us reach our ambitious fund drive goal," Executive Director Justin Meidinger, said. "The response from our donors was very gratifying and an indication of the growing public support for restoration of the Main Street landmark."

Last year, the group raised nearly $40,000 to help pay for rebuilding part of the building's north wall. The $200,000 wall re-construction was completed with a combination of O.P.E.R.A. funds and a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loan and grant.

Now that the critical wall improvement is complete, the organization is turning its focus to upgrades that will help increase use of the building by business and community groups.

That work would include: upgrading electric service for the first floor of the building; adding a fire detection/alarm system; renovating the storefront space next door to the Opera House Lobby & Gallery; upgrading the rear building entrance to meet ADA requirements; completing interior work on the remaining unimproved street-level storefronts.

To celebrate the fund drive achievement, the "Willow Creek Folk School" performed 'live' from the vacant second-floor auditorium of the opera house.

Tom Isern, a distinguished professor of history at NDSU, and Suzzanne Kelley, NDSU Press Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, have been performing their weekly Willow Creek program each Friday evening since the pandemic began last year.

Because of safety code regulations no audience was permitted in the auditorium, and the program was streamed over the internet and shown 'live' on a large screen monitor in the first floor lobby/gallery where the public reception was held.

Each Willow Creek program includes a new, original ballad devoted to events and thoughts of the day.

The ballad composed by Isern for October 15 was called "I Stand for Stories" and involved readings by Dickey County Leader community correspondent Rose Sell, who writes a weekly column about comings and goings in nearby Guelph, ND.

Copies of Isern's latest book "Pacing Dakota" were available for purchase at the event with proceeds going to the O.P.E.R.A. fund drive.

To contribute to the opera house renovation fund, you can mail your donation to O.P.E.R.A., Inc., P.O. Box 334, Ellendale, ND 58436. Or, donate online by clicking on the "Donate" button at the top of this page.

Because O.P.E.R.A. is a charitable non-profit organization, all donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.