Movies and mayhem, both musical and otherwise. What a week it’s been!

Without a doubt, Monday’s premiere of the documentary “West By Orphan Train” at DeWitt’s Operahouse Theatre crushed anyone’s expectations.

Hosting the event was the Friends group from the Frances Banta Waggoner Community Library and we offered a secret preview that afternoon to residents of local assisted living facilities. With 10 people attending from Maggie’s House in DeWitt and another 20 traveling from Grand Haven in Eldridge, we had a solid start to the day’s event.

orphan train mo & mac behind depotSpending the remainder of the afternoon with film director Colleen Bradford Krantz and Clark Kidder, author of “Emily’s Story,” I took them to Ann Soenksen’s to show Kidder where his grandmother’s school would have stood while also allowing him to visualize the general area of the Pelham Farm where his grandmother lived for several months. Eventually we stood at the Malone train crossing, where Emily arrived in Clinton County via orphan train from New York.

When we returned to DeWitt and walked toward the Operahouse at 5:30 Monday night, people were already trickling into the lobby. By 6:10 p.m., as Kidder’s book supply started running low and the crowd swelled, all of us began to fret over the theater’s capacity of 236.

Within 20 minutes, the house was full!

Opting to offer a second showing, we rolled the 60-minute film early and had another 150 people return at 8 p.m. for that screening!

While hindsight remains 20/20 and both Krantz and Kidder agreed the afternoon preview would have been a great option for others, no one could have prepared us for the wonderful interest in this project.

Admittedly, we live in a pretty cool area. Not only do we support the arts, but we have a solid interest in the orphan train story due, in part, to the Delmar Depot.

Many people connected with Krantz and Kidder, sharing stories of family members who came to the Midwest on an orphan train. One of the more exciting meetings was with a Muscatine woman whose mother was an orphan train rider and is still alive!

Iowa Public Television will be partnering with Krantz and Kidder for another local showing at Davenport’s Figge Art Museum, Sunday Nov. 16 at 2 p.m. A tentative IPTV airing is set for Monday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m.

As if I didn’t get my art “fix” Monday, Tuesday was the Northeast Marching Band Extravaganza in which both the middle and high school marching bands performed in the gymnasium.

When we moved our family into the Northeast School District nearly a decade ago, we attended a football game and watched a small, rather rag-tag marching band take the field. Both Marty and I came from strong high school music programs and we were adamant that both our children participate.

In the few years since our first experience watching the Northeast Marching Band, the program has burgeoned under the tutelage of Gerald Creger, Matthew Bolahan and Laura Horst, making Marty and I (selfishly) very excited for the coming years!

During Tuesday night’s concert, the middle school band began their set with Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.” I barely stifled a giggle as Creger prefaced the song by claiming it’s a mainstay for anyone with a guitar, electric or air. Myself? I remember killing it on the keyboard. Seriously, few are the chords less familiar!

After a smokin’ hot rendering of that classic, the band proceeded with the theme from “The Pirates of the Carribean” before closing with an impressive parade number.

Prior to the high schoolers taking the floor, Creger noted the band participated in the Musky Marching Invitational in Muscatine where they won the third place trophy. They also took part in the Iowa High School State Marching Band Festival at the newly renovated Brad Street Stadium in Davenport where they achieved an ‘Excellent’ rating.

The gym then filled with the music of Billy Joel, a multi-piece homage titled “Piano Man-the music of Billy Joel.” From “Only the Good Die Young” to “Air” (Dublinesque) it was both exciting and gorgeous to witness.

Hats off to the seniors and we excitedly wait the 2015 season to hear how the younger performers try to fill your shoes. Great work and many thanks for all your hard work!!!!

And finally, what Halloween is complete without ghouls, especially in Charlotte? Yep, the local haunted house is baaaack!

After 2012’s sudden and soul-crushing closing of the Charlotte Haunted House, Mike Jensen and the rest of the Citizens For Charlotte crew resurrected this community tradition inside the walls of the old stone Charlotte school.

With last weekend’s opener attracting nearly 1,000 people (official headcount was 989), it’s clear this town gives a great scare. Consider joining us tonight for the final screams of the 2014 season!


Originally published 1 November 2014 in The Observer.

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