Karolyn Grimes today

Karolyn with Tom DeWolf, the man responsible for bringing her to the Bend Theater.


Essays: Thoughts & Stories from Karolyn


A Fairy Tale of Community Involvement "Towers" over the Friendly City of Bend

In the high desert of Oregon rests a city of 52,000

The Tower showing in all of its splendor at night.

named Bend. The Deschutes River meanders through the town, and right in the middle is the Old Mill District, a new and exciting development aimed at keeping some of the area's history alive, as well as offering great shopping and unique eating establishments for all ages.

As part of this district in the very heart of Bend, almost on the banks of the Deschutes, is the Tower Theater. Like me, it was born in 1940, and throughout the years this old theater has gone through many phases.

At one point, it closed completely, to be a reminder of happier days. But in Bend, a group of folks had a vision. They wanted to give the old theater a new life. Of course, that would take money, lots of it. With diligence and fortitude, the people of Bend eventually raised more than $4 million, finding backing from many businesses and the Regal Theater chain.

The Tower Theater Marquee showing Eva Marie Saint (on right) appearing the night before Karolyn appeared.

Today, the fairy-tale story has a wonderful ending that really is a new beginning. The theater is alive again, with the best possible equipment. It has the capability to be a venue for a wide range of cultural activities, from live theater and dancing to movies and rock shows. This creation has been a wonderful gift to the people who live in Bend.

A view of the newly refurbished state-of-the-art Tower Theater.

As I wandered through all levels of this stately theater and gazed at paintings on the walls and artistic tiles used as cornices, I could see that many artists had collaborated to give a treasure back to the community that worked so hard to preserve it. The design is art deco, and the colors are various shades of terra cotta, in burgundy and other muted colors. The orchestra pit can be used for seating as well as music, and the keys of a new Steinway stand ready to produce a new century of musical notes.

I was fortunate to be invited to participate in one of the events of the grand reopening of the Tower Theater on February 3, 2004. What film did the organizers choose to demonstrate the theater's high-tech capabilities? Of course, it was "It's a Wonderful Life," a movie brimming with community involvement and showcasing how each person can make a difference.

The Tower exemplifies a vision that needed the active participation of its community, and everyone came through. What a thrill to see how this project culminated.

I enjoyed so much meeting and watching the film with the many "It's a Wonderful Life" friends and fans of Bend. Of the full house of 480 people who attended that night, probably half had never seen the film on the big screen. What a treat we had, viewing the film in pristine clarity and bigger than life.

A view from the Old Mill district overlooking the Dechutes River.

Of course, I ordered snow. It was not in the forecast, but that day Bend got 6 inches of soft powder that certainly helped with the ambience of the evening.
I will always hold a special place in my heart for the Tower Theater and the folks in Bend, Oregon. Perhaps you can experience the same kind of magic in your town, in towns near to you or even on a visit of your own to Bend itself.



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