Ohio Theatre celebrates 95th Anniversary

LIMA —A crowd showed up on Thursday night to celebrate the birthday of a Lima venue that is once again on the rise.

The Ohio Theatre in Lima celebrated its 95th anniversary with several special guests including Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce President Jed Metzger, Allen County Museum Director Amy Craft Klassen, Mayor Sharetta Smith, Executive Director of Downtown Lima, Inc. Betsy Billingsley, Chairman of the Council for the Arts of Greater Lima Bart Mills and Lima Poet Laureate Timothy Cheeseman.

“(It) was great to come out and celebrate almost a century, not quite a century, of having a place such as the Ohio Theatre in a community like Lima,” said Smith. “I’m grateful for individuals like (owners) Joe (Correll) and Michael (Bouson) who saw what a gem this is and wanted to come and put in not just their finances but their heart and sweat equity, to bring it back to life.”

The mood was jubilant and hopeful as Correll and Bouson thanked patrons and guests told them of the work being put into restoring the theatre, which is closed off for now, except for the bar section of the venue.

“And what you can do is to spread the word to the rest of the town because there’s plenty of people here and we want to be full now every night because see that?” said Bouson, pointing to the auditorium section. “We want to finish drywalling and plastering that wall. I would love some help. So please spread the word. Let’s get people here. Let’s get this place full and alive. And if we can do that, that will help revitalize downtown and that’s the main goal for pretty much everybody here, is to get this downtown going again.”

And guests were all optimistic, including resident Mike Huffman.

“This is this is such a great endeavor and I kind of did some work with it, volunteering and I think I think it’ll grow,” he said. “I think it’ll be something that is taking ground and will continue to grow. So these kinds of events are really important no matter how large or how small the attendance, it’s an accumulative effect. That’s what I thought.”

“I’m just looking forward to seeing the days where people are lined up to come in here, not just from Lima and Allen County, but from the region, state and even across the country to come in and actually enjoy entertainment in a place that has managed to stand the test of time,” said Smith.

Bouson said that he could tell that people knew the theatre needs help and that they all came in with a generous spirit even before knowing how bad the disrepair on the building was.

And he thinks there is one important reason for that.

“I think the one takeaway is, we said this in our very first interview, is that our names may be on the deed,” said Bouson. “But this theater belongs to Lima. And we couldn’t mean that any more than we do tonight. I mean, just seeing the different generations of people who came out for this event reminded us of how this building has touched people’s lives in so many ways. Fond memories, drunk memories, crazy memories, haunted memories. So we look forward to creating a whole bunch of more new fun, exciting, maybe not haunted, but funny memories for today’s audience.”

The Ohio Theatre currently operates the Stage Door Canteen and Piano Bar in the back of the auditorium, but will begin presenting shows with “Seasoned Greetings,” a musical comedy set to premier on Dec. 9 in that section.

Reach Jacob Espinosa at 567-242-0399