By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — First in line to get into the newly renovated Campus Theatre, Larissa McKnight, 7, of Northumberland, waited patiently for nearly an hour.
She wasn’t the only one.
“I’ve never been here before,” McKnight said with a giggle. “I’m here to see the movie.”
But hundreds of others were there mostly to see the Campus Theatre unveil its updated look as much as to see “The Music Man.” The 70 year-old theatre underwent an extensive $2.5 million, six-month renovation, which included an improved projection and sound system, a new air-conditioning and heating system, refurbished seating and new lighting and carpet.
The entire evening was a grand celebration — the official opening of the theater and a celebratory block party all rolled into one.
Families with young children and senior citizens mixed with Bucknell University students in a street fair that featured free entertainment, activities and food — more than 1,200 hot dogs were handed out —in the M&T Bank parking lot and along a section of South Fourth Street, which was blocked off to traffic.
The fair was family friendly, with several activities for children, including a hoops clinic, balloon artist, caricaturist, face painting and spin art.
Sachiko Shield, of Lewisburg, was there with her two young children, who were thrilled to get free balloons.
Murphy Ellis and his son, Roger, of Milton, were in town to soak up the atmosphere and see a movie.
“I grew up in the area, and this theater is where I hung out,” said Murphy Ellis. “I want my son to enjoy it here someday too, when he gets older.”
Watching it all was Mark O’Brien, chairman of the theater board of directors. “It was just great seeing all these people eager to experience the Campus Theatre,” he said. “This event is emblematic of the great relationship between the university and area residents.”
After the street fair, Bucknell President John Bravman, Lewisburg Mayor Judy Wagner, state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-23 of Williamsport, and Union County Commissioner John Mathias offered opening remarks, with all except Bravman reminiscing about growing up in the area and spending time at the grand old Campus Theatre.
“It’s where we took our dates,” Yaw said.
Wagner declared Friday “Campus Theatre Day” in the borough of Lewisburg.
The event, Bravman said, is part of the inaugural Arts Everywhere Festival hosted by Bucknell and the Lewisburg Downtown Partnership.
“The arts are an important part of campus life,” he told the crowd of more than 300, seated inside the theatre. “But here in this town, it’s also a significant part of community life.”
The Campus is one of a handful of art deco theaters built in the early 1940s that’s still operating.
The renovations were funded by a commonwealth grant and money from Bucknell.