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Edwards Opera House seeks funding for renovation projects

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EDWARDS — The Edwards Opera House is seeking funding for renovations now that the venue has grown in popularity and has increased its number of shows per season.

The opera house is in the Town Hall, 161 Main St.

Musical Director Michael I. Welch said the building needs a second set of bathrooms because whenever a show has an intermission, the bathroom lines are too long.

Mr. Welch said the building also needs electrical rewiring.

Alex M. Vangellow, member of the Potsdam band Double Axel, said that although he has performed in the opera house before, his band will have its first show there in September.

Mr. Vangellow described the venue as “elegant” and “classic.”

“It’s a beautiful spot,” he said.

Mr. Vangellow said there is one feature of the building that musicians are less than enthusiastic about: they “have to carry all their equipment up the fire escape.”

“That’s not easy, especially for some of us older guys,” he said.

The building is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Mr. Welch said officials want to get an outdoor elevator installed so musicians and audience members can avoid the two flights of stairs.

Mr. Welch said he and other people involved with running the opera house are looking for grant writers to help them secure funding for the projects. They’re also planning fundraisers and hoping for private donations.

The opera house has 12 shows this season, which began in April and goes until Labor Day weekend. Mr. Welch said the annual all-star concert it hosts consists of 30 to 40 musicians, and all the proceeds go to the opera house. This year, the show was May 30, and it had the highest attendance ever, with 260 people.

Mr. Welch said when the opera house was restored in 2003, the first show was a bluegrass concert with 40 people in the audience. Now, musical and theatrical shows draw an average crowd of about 100.

John D. Kribs, a musician in Hadley, has performed at the opera house more than eight times.

“It’s a beautiful room and the sound there is spectacular,” he said. “There’s a lot of really great talent in Northern New York and they gear their shows toward families and people who want to focus on the music.”

Mr. Kribs said that although it’s a smaller venue, seating 200 to 300 people, the shows he’s been to were well attended.

“People enjoy going there because it feels like history,” he said. “The ambiance goes back a century.”

Richard C. Atkinson, leader of the Atkinson Family Band, said his north country band has performed in opera houses all over the state.

“There are a lot of opera houses around the north country that are being restored,” he said. “The Edwards Opera House is the best-kept secret in Northern New York.”

Mr. Atkinson said his band has performed there only once, last May, but it was “one of the nicest opera houses we’ve played in.”

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