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Cricket Theatre marquee lighting brings community together

The night was bright on July 14 in Collinsville.

The Collinsville Historical Association hosted a memorable ceremony to mark the initial lighting of the completely refurbished and recently re-installed neon marquee on Collinsville’s historic Cricket Theatre.

The whole town was invited to attend this extraordinary event. To kick things off, there were commemorative medallions for the first 200 attendees. The ceremony began at 7 p.m. with live entertainment and special guest speakers.

Guest speaker Bobby Elrod told the large crowd that there was just over 800 feet of glass neon in the sign. Traditional concessions such as movie theatre popcorn and glass bottled Coca-Cola were served in keeping with the Theatre’s original grand opening in 1946.

The re-lighting of the Cricket Theatre was an amazing moment of the town’s history to witness. I felt honored to be there and was happy that I could contribute to this wonderful event.       

With the help of Library Director Jennifer Wilkins and Allie Jones with Collinsville High School, I was able to recruit members to be a part of the Little Collinsville Rockettes ages 3 to 11.  I was able to direct this group in a brief performance for the enjoyment of the town.

After the performance, there were brief remarks from members of the theatre’s founding family and community leaders.

I learned the name “The Cricket” came to be because of the theatre’s location near Wills Creek. People even said that crickets could be heard chirping from the downtown area.

I also gathered that silent movies, accompanied by a record player, were once big business for the original 197-seat theatre when it was located in the G.W. Roberts building, which is now the Collinsville Public Library. Admission was only 10 cents for children and 20 cents for adults.

The “new” Cricket Theatre in the current location on Main Street opened in 1946 with a seating capacity of 800.

As far as future plans for the Cricket Theatre, the Collinsville Historical Association would like to add a heating and cooling system, new ceiling, handicapped accessibility and a new sound system. The group also hopes to develop programs and policies, restore the balcony and add more seats to the theatre.

It was astounding to watch a community come together at the end of my time there. I saw familiar faces and many new ones.

Once all community members were outside, a countdown was shouted for the official lighting of the sign. Once the sign was lit, all I could hear was clapping and cheering.

That night I departed from Collinsville after I said my goodbyes to everyone I had met there. Deb Redditt, my summer hostess, made me feel so loved the in the community and told me I was always welcome to come back and stay with her.

Jimmy Carter, former mayor, told me “whether I like it of not, Collinsville will always be a part of me, and, I will always be apart of Collinsville.”   

I felt happy to leave on a positive note in the town. Seeing the lighting of the sign is something I will always remember.

Tags: Collinsville

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