Anderson/Madison County Visitors Blog
Happy 85th birthday! A lot of people didn’t think you’d make it this far, and I’ve got to admit, you were looking pretty rough around the edges when you were in your early 60’s. But thanks to a lot of friends and tender loving care, you’ve bounced back nicely and are looking quite beautiful again.
I’m referring to the Paramount Theatre Centre and Ballroom in Anderson. The majestic beauty opened in 1929 and thanks to Bill and Gloria Gaither and the entire Gaither organization, just celebrated its 85th birthday in grand style! The Gaithers donated all of their services—including the great Gaither Vocal Band—for a benefit concert for the Paramount in celebration of the theatre’s 85th birthday. Their generosity resulted in a $122,000 donation. Now that is a great birthday gift!
The Gaithers mean a great deal to Madison County and I will write about that in a future blog. But today I want to concentrate on the Paramount and what it means to the community and families throughout the area.
I had the pleasure of writing a viewpoint for the Herald Bulletin earlier this summer supporting the paper’s campaign to raise money for the Paramount in honor of the late Bill Hardacre, who along with his wife Ann, and local attorney Leslie Davisson Mattingly, were the leaders in the movement to save and restore the Paramount.
In the piece I wrote for the paper I noted the impact the Paramount has had on the community as an impetus for further restoration and development in downtown Anderson. The importance of the Paramount in the saving and restoration of the abandoned Carnegie Building, which served as the former home to the Anderson Public Library, and is now the magnificent home of the Anderson Center for the Arts, is undeniable.
I also wrote in the viewpoint that I am often asked when we will be able to stop raising money for the Paramount. My answer is always the same: never. It is costly to maintain and operate and is essentially owned by the community and will always require financial support. That isn’t a criticism; it is simply the reality of the situation. It is an investment, and as we have seen since it was saved and renovated, it is an investment that is paying dividends.
But there are numerous buildings, organizations, and businesses that have a positive economic impact and are important to the community. What really sets the Paramount apart from the rest is that it is also important to the heart of many in the area.
The impact it has had on my family is undeniable. My Grandpa and Grandma Bannon first met at a dance in the Paramount ballroom. I married my wife, Jessica, on the Paramount stage. Jessica also worked as the Paramount’s marketing director and assistant director early in her career and is a current board member. I served on the board for over ten years and was president of the board for three years. My mother’s last job before retirement was as the Paramount bookkeeper. My dad worked as an usher at the Paramount during high school, played a big role in its restoration, served on the board, and has a bust of his likeness on the street in front of the theatre. I eulogized Dad in the Paramount. So the very beginning of my father’s life—the day his parents first met—to the end—the day of his funeral—took place within the walls of the Paramount Theatre.
That is why the Paramount is in my heart and why I consider it my theatre. Many other families consider it their theatre too and have their own stories such as proms, wedding receptions, seeing a special performance with their kids or grandparents, and more that fill their hearts.
Thanks to Leslie, Bill, and Ann for taking up the cause in the first place. Thanks to the countless people who have joined in and kept the Paramount alive through volunteering and financial support. Thanks to the Gaithers for their generous gift last month. It is because of all of you that the Paramount has reached 85.
Bravo, Paramount! Here’s to many more years of positive economic impact, memories yet to be experienced, and hearts to be filled!
News, notes, and thoughts—The Hoosier Park summer concert series concluded August 30 with a performance by the Doobie Brothers. It was another great summer of music under the stars. I thought Heart was the best concert, with Earth, Wind & Fire a close second…I was excited to see that Boz Scaggs will be at Hoosier Park November 1…Speaking of Hoosier Park, it just celebrated its 20th birthday September 1…Looking forward to participating in the Chefs Boy R We event again this year. Chefs Boy R We is a fundraiser for the Community Hospital Anderson Foundation and a really fun night. I will be making cheese dip martinis…The numbers for VisitAndersonMadisonCounty.com continue to be outstanding. A new record was set September 2 for the most unique visitors in one day, with 5,561 people stopping by the site. During Colts Camp the site averaged nearly 2,700 unique visitors a day…Don’t forget to nominate someone for an Inspire Award!
--Tom Bannon is executive director of the Anderson/Madison County Visitors Bureau