Local band Great Caesar’s Goat is performing at the Camelot Theater in Nevada at 7 pm Saturday in a fundraising concert to benefit the historic landmark.
In January, the Camelot Theater Foundation bought the building for $50,000 with plans to restore the beloved 94-year-old building. The city of Nevada and the Nevada Economic Development Council each contributed $20,000, and $10,000 came from community members.
Ultimately, the project plan includes a bistro and rooftop bar as well as continuation of the theater and stage.The theater was built in 1928 and is part of Nevada’s Downtown Historic District.
“When Nevada was working on their 2040 economic development plan, the Camelot was identified as a building there was a community goal to preserve,” said Melissa Sly, president of the foundation. “We created a nonprofit to purchase the building with the mission to renovate it.”
The vision includes an extension into the one-story building to the north of the Camelot, a former barber shop that was donated to the foundation.
“We’re planning on expanding the lobby into that space and making a wine bar bistro in the front,” Sly said. “We also want to do a rooftop bar eventually.”
The group wants to make the theater a multipurpose venue to accommodate a variety of events, including plays, musicals, lives music, children’s theater and movies.
“We’re also looking at … business events, weddings, lecture series and training. We really want it to be a multipurpose venue, but the interior of the theater would remain largely the same in maintaining the historic features,” she said.
Those historic features include a classic revival movie palace that features a ceiling that resembles twinkling stars. The 400-seat theater was originally designed to give the impression of sitting in an outdoor courtyard, Sly said.
The wine bar bistro would not be run by the foundation and the goal is to have a business there on a daily basis. The rental income from the bistro and the two upstairs apartments will create an operating fund to maintain the building.
The timing of the project is dependent on fundraising, Sly said. After purchasing the theatre, the foundation started to address waterproofing issues to areas like the marquee, brick facade, roofing and windows. Work could be completed by the summer of 2024.
The company Renaissance Renovations removed the paint from the facade and the exterior, revealing the natural brick design that was covered in recent decades.
The historic windows and the ornate cornices around them are the current focus. The Camelot Theater Foundation is raising $100,000 to repair and restore them. The Save Our Windows campaign is the benefit of Saturday’s Great Caesar’s Goat concert.
More:Great Caesar’s Goat celebrates musical storytelling of new album, 2 solo CDs
‘We grew up in it’: Great Caesar’s Goat founder Chris Patterson has childhood memories of the Camelot
Nevada residents Chris Patterson and Spencer Braly are the founding members of the band, whose music is often described as Americana rock ‘n’ roll and country. Both are vocalists, guitarists and songwriters and are joined by longtime Ames musicians Greg Bruna on bass and Todd Cumming on drums.
The Camelot is a building to which every local seems to have a connection.
“The Camelot was part of our youth. We grew up in it,” Patterson said. “I remember a specific Saturday where they did a ‘Planet of the Apes’ marathon. I remember seeing ‘Rocky’ for the first time at the theater and running all the way home — I was so excited about Rocky.”
His class held its prom there. He attended “Rocky Horror Picture Shows” there. The list of memories is long.
In those years, music wasn’t in Patterson’s head yet, he said. He had a guitar when he was 8, but he never played it. The music started years later when he was living in Austin, Texas.
Although he wasn’t a musician yet in high school, he was a music lover — the guy who always had the cool record collection, discovering groups long before his peers did.
“I wasn’t listening to the same things my friends were listening to on the radio. I was reading magazines and trying to find out who the cool artists were,” he said. “I remember liking U2 before anyone knew who they were, when their first album came out. Same with REM.
“As bands become more famous, they become less interesting with me. I really liked the underdogs.”
The Smiths, The Cure, INXS — finding those bands before his friends did was part of his philosophy.
“I think everybody in the band is excited to play the Camelot. This is a great opportunity. We’re doing it now before the renovations happen to both raise awareness and raise some money,” he said.
Concert will help pay for new windows; restored theater is expected to be economic boon for downtown
The concert specifically is helping pay to replace the historic windows at the Camelot.
The stage and sound system have been updated in recent years, and Brian Dodson from Des Moines’ xBk will be the sound tech for the show.
“Spencer and I are natural storytellers. We tell stories with our songs, and we plan to tell stories during the show,” Patterson said.
Movies and songs are both ways to tell stories, he said.
“I can remember being 6 or 7 years old, and your parents would give you $2 — one for the movie and one for popcorn — and meet all your friends at the Camelot,” Patterson said.
“I think it’s really exciting that the whole downtown committee and the theater organization are putting the effort to making downtown Nevada more of what it was when I was a teenager. I think they’re doing some exciting stuff.”
in Nevada with the whole band.
Sly has a personal connection to the Camelot project too. Growing up in nearby Maxwell, she often went to movies there.
“My dad is a carpenter and when he was young and starting out, this was one of his first projects. He helped do the original remodel in the late ’60s. Every time we would go to the movie theater as a family, he would always talk about it,” she said.
Sly’s grandfather was a barber in the shop to the north of the Camelot. The foundation predicts the rehabilitation of the theater will have a catalytic effect on the Main Street District, Sly said.
“The tourism interest generated from the theater activities will lead to creating opportunities for adjacent and neighboring businesses to grow, while also creating new business opportunities in the district,” she wrote in an email to the Ames Tribune.
The Camelot is located at 1114 Sixth St. in Nevada. Tickets to Saturday’s concert are $20 and are available at Eventbrite.com.
Donations to the Camelot project can be submitted through the foundation’s website, camelottheaterfoundation.org.
Ronna Faaborg covers business and the arts for the Ames Tribune. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.