8/29/2013 - If it’s a nice day in Warner, you might find Peter Ladd, Charlie Betz or Bob Shoemaker at work piecing together the much-anticipated solar-powered amphitheater behind MainStreet BookEnds.
They’re so close to completion — the amphitheater is expected to be finished by the Warner Foliage Festival, which starts Oct. 12 — and you can already see that the structure nestled at the bottom of the hill looks like a stage. And at that, it’s a solar-powered stage, with a 13th-century post-and-beam barn design. It’s not huge, but there’s an old-fashioned New Hampshire charm to it, which Katharine Nevins, owner of MainStreet BookEnds of Warner, thinks will fit the town perfectly.
The theater will be the final touch to an already popular, relaxing space at the Jim Mitchell Community park behind the bookshop, which has really become a cultural center for Warner. In addition to its solar-powered bookshop and adjacent patio and park, the space also features a MarketPlace and Gallery, where locals can sell art, pottery, jewelry, quilts, products and food (open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
The space is also home to weekly reading groups and a Thursday evening Farmer’s Market. Last week, Yvonne Howard was reading aloud there with nine-year-old Lorainn Brown and ten-year-old Samantha Meadows. Between pages, Brown kept glancing over to watch Betz and Shoemaker, who were at work sawing and hammering away.
“I think it’s pretty interesting, and I think it’s going to be a big hit,” Brown said of the theater.
Howard, too, is looking forward to see the final product. She’s a teacher at Simonds Elementary School in Warner and organizes the Wednesday evening storytime at the bookshop during the school year, the read-aloud program in the park during
“I love this town. I don’t even live here,” said Howard, who lives in Sutton. “This is a little town, but there’s lots going on here.”
The building took up a great deal of time, effort, man hours and community funding; Nevins said in a short interview that the community raised about $200,000 for this project, and nearly twice that much in in-kind donations. They’re still fundraising and are just $20,000 short of what they need for the big reveal in October.
Ladd, Betz and Shoemaker are donating their free time and labor in the building of this structure. Betz and Shoemaker are carpenters and Ladd specializes in
The design features raised bottom chord trusses with free spans and arched ceilings; Betz and Shoemaker said during a short break that it’s one of the most difficult projects they’ve worked on. All of the angles are arched which makes building complicated, but it hasn’t stopped them from working on warm, muggy days like this one.
“It seemed like a good way to contribute to the community, to create something that would be lasting,” Betz said in the interview.
Residents have also donated small trees that line the sides of the park (the donor’s name is inscribed on a plaque next to each), and soon, a landscaper will fill the space behind the stage with more of these.
The project was dreamed up by Jim Mitchell, brother of Nevins, who died of a heart attack in 2008. He and others founded MainStreet Warner Inc., the nonprofit organizing the endeavor, in 2000. The bookshop itself was the second in the country to go solar (the first east of the rockies), and this amphitheater will be the first.
This park is something that the community rallied behind enormously, Nevins said, and she, along with the rest of the town’s volunteers, residents and visitors, is very anxious for its completion.
“The fun part comes in October, when we coordinate the programming,” she said with
A couple of home school and children’s theater groups have taken interest thus far, but she’s not making any definite plans until