Recent efforts at Memorial Boulevard prove to be successful

By LISA CAPOBIANCO
STAFF WRITER
Last month, several events took place at the former Memorial Boulevard School that not only indicated success in terms of the large audience, but also helped raise nearly $6,000.
During a recent meeting, Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, chair of the Memorial Boulevard Task Force, noted how flawlessly the three events held at Memorial Boulevard School were executed last month.
On Nov. 1, hundreds of volunteers flocked to the Memorial Boulevard theater during a community clean-up to help prepare for a series of Veterans Day programs through tasks like sweeping, dusting ledges, cleaning windows and the stage floor, as well as vacuuming upholstered seats. That same day, prospective tenants will have an opportunity to visit the theater during an open house.
On Nov. 9, a musical show with a patriotic theme, “God Bless the USA,” took place in the theater, and featured community talent. The entertainment continued on Nov. 11 with a Veterans Day ceremony, followed by a Bristol Brass and Wind Ensemble concert that evening.
Zoppo said the Veterans Day ceremony attracted double the number of people than it normally does, and the concert held that night brought more than 500 people.
“I think it really ignited some of our community partners that we are interested in working with as well as the people who attended who really saw the potential,” said Zoppo. “This is a project that can make it across the finish line.”
The total revenue generated after November was $5,955, according to the Task Force’s financial report to date. The revenue generated from the “God Bless America” show alone was $2,881, which included a combination of raffle donations and ticket sales. The Bristol Brass and Wind Ensemble generated $850 in donations, which was donated back to the city during a Council meeting held earlier this month.
“They covered their costs, they made a small donation to the Bristol Veterans Council, and the balance of it is coming to us,” said Zoppo, adding how ad book revenue was over $2,000.
During the council meeting, the Bristol Brass and Wind Ensemble handed the city a $850 check as a result of the donations it received from the Veterans Day concert. The donations doubled the amount in which the group normally receives due to the hundreds of people in the community who attended the Veterans Day concert. The Board of Directors decided that because the group felt so enthusiastic about the renovations of Memorial Boulevard School, they would like to take every dollar over what they would normally take and donate it to the Memorial Boulevard renovation fund. All 55 members of the band signed the check.
“It shows the dedication we would like to show in the future as well through other fundraisers,” said a representative of Bristol Brass and Wind Ensemble.
Bristol Mayor Ken Cockayne thanked the group for its donation.
“It was an outstanding concert—we loved it,” said Cockayne.
Zoppo added that expenses totaled a little more than $4,000, and included paying the Public Works Dept. custodial staff, some cleaning supplies, the limelight, the fireproofing of the curtain, and incidental printing. Zoppo said custodial expenses, which totaled $360.63, were less than anticipated. The net income from that weekend of the event was $1,932.77.
Since the successful events held at the school in November, Zoppo said the Task Force has received a number of phone calls from entities and groups that want to use the building and the theater. Zoppo said letters were submitted by groups, including the New Britain Youth Theater, which expressed interest in renting during Febuary vacation, and the Bristol Brass and Wind Ensemble expressed interest in hosting its main concert there. In addition, a local man expressed interest in bringing a Queen tribute band to the theater next April.
Task Force member Jim Albert said business incubators have reached out to him expressing interest in using the former school, and even representatives of the government of Ecuador would like to host an Ecuadorian Independence Day event there.
“There’s so many ideas,” said Albert, adding how another individual expressed interest in a 1920s-themed café in the building. “I get more and more discussion calls, e-mails around ideas, and that’s a great thing.”
The task force plans to look into creating a spring and summer schedule, as well as a potential fall schedule for those who are interested.
Zoppo said letters of interest that the Task Force received for the theater component that is officially part of the theater progress report from November include New Britain Youth Theater, Jesse Gallagher, the Bristol Brass and Wind Ensemble, and Landmark.
“They’re our first tier,” said Zoppo. “Those are the groups we need to sit down with right away and find out what their needs are.”
Meanwhile, the Memorial Boulevard Task Force would like to start private fundraising with the help of Main Street Community Foundation. The agreement would allow the Task Force to accept donations and to offer a tax deductible benefit for donors, said Zoppo. The Task Force recommended approval of the agreement between the foundation and the city, which the Council approved during the meeting. Zoppo said the agreement is a non-endowed project fund, which means the foundation would serve as a “fiduciary agent” for the city.
“We have decided on a short term basis to ask Main Street Community Foundation to work with us,” said Zoppo. “Eventually as the management and organizational structure is determined for the building long-term, this would most likely go away.”
Comment? Email lcapobianco@BristolObserver.com.