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Penny floor making one last push

The back hallway of the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes, Minn., is one of two main areas of the theater's Penny Floor Project that remain unfinished. The theater is making a big push to finish the project in time for the start of Polar Fest on February 7, 2014, but to do that, more volunteers are needed. Vicki Gerdes/DL Newspapers2 / 4
The main hallway of the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes, Minn., is now almost completely covered with copper pennies, thanks to the work of hundreds of community volunteers, and many buckets full of pennies donated by people from all over the country. Vicki Gerdes/DL Newspapers3 / 4
The hallway and foyer adjacent to the elevator at Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre is one of two main areas of the theater's Penny Floor Project that are still awaiting completion. More community violunteers are needed to finish the project in time for the start of the community's annual Polar Fest celebration on February 7, 2014. Vicki Gerdes/DL Newspapers4 / 4

The real-life "Penny Lane" that is taking shape on the second floor of Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre is more than halfway toward completion.

"We're a little over halfway done," said Becky Mitchell, the theater's events and outreach director, who organized the penny floor project this past fall. "But we really need help to finish it."

Community donations of the copper-coated, one-cent coins are still flowing in, but more help is needed on the volunteer labor side of things — to make "one last big push" toward completion.

"We've had a phenomenal response as far as (penny) donations," Mitchell said. "We still have between 5-10 kids coming in every day after school, and a handful of adults that come in during the day as well. But we need more groups."

It's not that volunteer help hasn't been plentiful since the project began at the end of October. Two successful "community work day" events were held in November and December, bringing in large numbers of volunteers to help glue down pennies.

Several church groups, youth groups, classrooms from local schools, and even businesses have sent work crews over to help for a few hours as well, Mitchell said. Several members of the local community theater group, Summit Productions, contributed toward the project this past fall, and even some of the performers who have done shows at the theater stopped by to help lay a few pennies.

"Some of the guys from Lorie Line's crew came and helped us while they were in town, and Ted Manderfeld and Paul Diethelm (from Rock & Roll Christmas Spectacular) laid some pennies for us, too," Mitchell said.

But the need has become more pressing since a definite goal was set for the project's completion.

"We'd like to wrap things up by Polar Fest (which starts Feb. 7)," Mitchell said — and there's still quite a bit of work left to be done.

The elevator foyer and a large portion of the back hallway leading into the theater remain unfinished, she noted.

"This is the final push," Mitchell said.

With that in mind, two additional "Community Work Day" events have been set for this month. The first will be held on Sunday, Jan. 19, from 2 to 5 p.m., and the second on Saturday, Jan. 25, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteers of all ages are welcome to come into the theater on either of those days to help lay pennies.

Those who are unable to come in on either of those days can drop by the theater anytime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, to contribute an hour or two toward completing the project.

Volunteer groups from local businesses, youth groups and other organizations are also welcome to call Becky Mitchell at 218-844-4221, ext. 117, to set up a time to come in and work on the floor.

"It's fun," Mitchell said. "We usually have the music going, and we can put the coffee on too. You can just sit and chat while you work, and it's a great family activity as well. When it's winter and you can't spend a lot of time outside, you can bring your family to the theater, enjoy a free art activity and create some memories."

Once the penny floor is completed, Mitchell said, there are a variety of other improvement projects planned at the theater.

"There are lots of other projects we have slated to do this year," she added, "but we want to keep the focus on this one for now, and finish it before we start on the next one."

The next project, Mitchell continued, is to create mosaic stair risers for each of the theater's eight stairwells.

"We're in the planning phases of that right now," she said. "We're looking for local art classes or artist groups that would like to help design and work on a particular staircase."

The goal, Mitchell added, is "to make sure the people of this community feel this theater (and particularly, the artwork incorporated into its design) represents the ideas of many. We welcome their input."

Those who would like to contribute toward the design phase of the mosaic stair project are also welcome to contact Mitchell for more information on how to participate.

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Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454