James Dean’s high school stage to be salvaged

James Dean’s high school stage to be salvaged

Posted: Monday, April 8, 2013 4:00 am
By Ryan Anderson | randerson@chronicle-tribune.com | www.chronicle-tribune.com

The Fairmount Lions Club, spearheaded by President Jake Roth, is trying to reassemble the stage that screen icon and Fairmount native James Dean performed on in high school.

The long-closed high school had fallen into disrepair — as had the stage — before the Lions Club rescued the stage in August 2010.

The Fairmount High School stage had fallen into disrepair before the Lions Club rescued it.

“We removed it piece by piece,” Roth said, and it now sits in a truck, waiting to be reassembled in the pavilion at Play Acres Park.

The removal process for the stage took three days, but Roth, a 1966 graduate of the high school, said, “We can’t afford to take care of the high school, but it would mean an awful lot if we could save the stage, because it’s an important part of history.”

“I performed on that stage, as did many others, but it’s been in that truck for 2.5 years now, and it’s time to move forward,” he said.

That’s why he’s launched a fundraising campaign for the project, which he said will cost just over $100,000.

He’s been working tirelessly “to get the word out,” sending a plethora of letters and 1,000 brochures, and he said he plans to send out 4,000 more brochures.

The Community Foundation of Grant County is integrally involved in the reclamation project.

Dawn Brown, executive director, said the foundation has set up a pass-through fund, which allows people to donate to the foundation specifically for the stage project.

She said the fund officially opened about three weeks ago, but they have already had donations, Brown said.

Donations are tax-deductible, and the foundation will pay the bills for the stage project out of the fund, Brown said.

Roth, the chairmen for the Fairmount High School Stage Project, has a goal of $100,000 in donations for the fund.

Brown called him “a firecracker,” and said, “He plows ahead until he achieves his goals.”

Roth said his aim is to have the stage completed in the park by this year’s James Dean festival, at the end of September.

Roth said he’s been told by many his timeline is too ambitious, especially with a sluggish economy, but he remains undeterred.

“There’s never a perfect time (for fundraising), but this will be very important to our community,” he said. 

“The biggest thing is just getting the word out, because this really will bring back a piece of history.”

Brown said anyone interested in preserving history should donate, and it’s a “project about improving the quality of life in Grant County.”

“We’ve never done a stage project like this,” Brown said. “But we do pass-through funds for many local organizations.”

For example, they have set one up in the hope of erecting a memorial bridge in Matter Park to honor three local students who recently died, and they’re currently working on giving away $500,000 in scholarships.

Roth said the stage would be more than a monument, or a source of civic pride; it would also be highly functional and have a multitude of uses.

He said it would be used during all James Dean-oriented events, but also for concerts and all manner of community events.

Roth is hunting for corporate sponsorships, but he also implored individuals to donate through the Community Foundation.

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