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North Shore's largest auditorium opens at Kelley

The house band at the the opening of the William Kelley Schools auditorium performs a rendition of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." (Jamey Malcomb/News-Chronicle)1 / 4
From left, Terri Lehr, Theresa Aho and Kristiina Thums perform during the William Kelley Schools auditorium opening celebration Wednesday, Oct. 24. (Jamey Malcomb/News-Chronicle)2 / 4
The William Kelley High School Jazz Band performs "Caravan" by Duke Ellington during the opening of the school's renovated auditorium. (Jamey Malcomb/News-Chronicle)3 / 4
William Kelley student Tor Soderstrom and English teacher Katie Fritz celebrate Soderstrom's successful spelling of the word "prestidigitation." (Photo by Lisa Malcomb)4 / 4

With singing, dancing and some tears of joy, Silver Bay celebrated the reopening of the William Kelley Schools auditorium Wednesday, Oct. 24, after a summer of repairs and renovations.

More than 300 people filed into the refurbished venue to listen to a variety of music, dance routines and other demonstrations of the different uses for the facility.

Elizabeth Dover performs a dance routine during the opening of the William Kelley auditorium. (Jamey Malcomb/News-Chronicle)Paul Deaner, executive director of Lake Superior Community Theatre, led the show's house band in several songs to open and conclude the show.

Other acts included performances by the WKS Jazz Band, Mariner Choir and musical theatre classes, the Teresa Aho Band, and dance routines by students at Sterling Dance in Two Harbors.

The 2018 Lake Superior School District Spelling Bee champion, Tor Soderstrom, even showed off some of his skills by spelling the word "prestidigitation" — a term for magic tricks performed as entertainment.

All of the performances were to demonstrate the diversity of use of the auditorium and why there was a need for nearly $175,000 in renovations.

Lake Superior Community Theatre produces an annual play in the auditorium, also the location for WKS commencement and the LSSD spelling bee.

Over the past six months, all 802 original seats in the auditorium were replaced and new lighting and sound systems were installed. WKS English teacher Katie Fritz organized a fundraising campaign where individuals and groups purchased a seat for $200.

Since summer 2017, she raised more than $172,000, including seat sponsorships, and a pair of $30,000 grants from the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation in Duluth and the Cleveland-Cliffs Foundation, which owns Northshore Mining in Silver Bay.

"The Cliffs Foundation is different than some of our other charitable efforts," Northshore Mining General Manager Paul Carlson said. "It focuses on educational endeavors and projects that make the community more vibrant and this checks both of those boxes. It's just good community project, it's good for the school and we're proud to support it."

For Fritz, the response to the fundraising campaign was about more than just the repairs and renovations the the auditorium — the largest venue between Duluth and the Canadian border — it's about having a space that prioritizes performing arts on the North Shore.

"It's just a reminder of how much this community values the arts," Fritz said. "It values the students and it values the role the arts play in making this a richer community."

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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