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The Van Wert County Courthouse

Sunday, May. 1, 2016


Music in Van Wert

By: Paul Hoverman


I started to think about what to write about today, and it dawned on me that there are many happenings surrounding our local community. First of all, I want to congratulate the Evergreen Garden Club for its successful event last weekend at the Niswonger.  It was called Van Wert Blooms and brought people of gardening interests to Van Wert from all over the region.

Louise Hartwig, Janice Kirchenbauer, and a loyal host of committee members dreamed that an event like this could happen in Van Wert, and boy were they right! The Niswonger and Evergreen Garden Club combined our efforts to put on a whole day clinic that is being talked about throughout the region. Speakers from all over the country are contacting Louise about speaking at the next event.

It was a pleasure to work with these ladies who are dedicated to sharing their knowledge and love of gardening.  Their contacts throughout the country and their organization skills are very admirable and I salute them!  Education and inspiration are two pillars the Niswonger holds dear as part of our mission. Van Wert Blooms fit that bill quite well.

On another musical front, the Van Wert High School Band went to Columbus this past weekend to compete at the state level of music competition. Many of you remember dong this when you went through school. Well, the hometown band did us proud by receiving not only an overall “I” (superior) rating, but they received that same rating from each of the four judges.

Congratulations to Mr. Sloan, the high school band director, and to the students who obviously worked very hard in the classroom and were dedicated in their preparation for state competition. Their work paid off once again with a superior rating!

I should also mention that the VWHS Quiz Bowl goes to Nationals in Rosemont, Illinois, this weekend.  Good luck to them and their advisor, Miss Zuber! This weekend, the Lincolnview High School Choir, directed by Stacy Korte, goes to state competition and we wish them the very best too!

On the professional stage of the Niswonger this weekend, we finish our season with not one, but two concerts. Winner of “The Voice” in 2014, Craig Wayne Boyd will be in town Friday night for a rescheduled concert from this past January’s blizzard that hit Nashville. In addition to Boyd’s performance, we have added a young Country duo called SmithField.  So now you will get entertained by not only a proven winner like Craig Wayne Boyd, but also a soon to be winner in SmithField. You can probably get some tickets yet for this concert of country, pop and maybe even a little gospel music.

We finish the 2015-16 Niswonger Season with jazz at its finest. A popular Niswonger jazz artist, Brian Culbertson, returns to Van Wert with his entire band to entertain and liven up the house. This Saturday evening concert will be filled with many exciting components, including the drawing for that beautiful cream-white Thunderbird many of you have been seeing parked in front of the Niswonger entrance throughout the year. A total of 465 tickets have been sold for this drawing.

You can still get in on the drawing any time before Saturday’s concert. It was determined that a cap of 500 tickets would be sold. If you have purchased one, you can increase your chances and buy more. See the box office to get one last chance at this gorgeous Thunderbird convertible with red interior. The money raised goes to good causes at the Niswonger to enhance our shows.  You will see some of it in action at the Brian Culbertson concert this Saturday.

Also, don’t forget about memberships and series tickets for the newly announced Community Concert Series of 2016-17. Doc Severinsen, Guy & Ralna, and others highlight this extraordinary value of musical concerts, which are brought to you by Okuley/Unverferth Dentistry this year.


POSTED: 04/27/16 at 7:18 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

This past Sunday, we announced the 2016-17 Community Concert Series with the herald voices of the Texas Tenors. What a concert and, I know, we need to have them back! They really were exceptional talents, showmen, and gentlemen. We are so fortunate to be able to produce them on our stage in a very professional way, so as to add even more excitement to their already superior show.

It was amazing to feel the excitement of anticipation in the lobby even before the show began. You knew something special was about to happen. Then the show began … and it did! At intermission, I don’t know if I have ever felt the “buzz” of excitement as much as I did with the Texas Tenors. It really was “electric!”

And what a great way to announce our new Community Concert Series for next season. We are proud to be partnering with a new series Presenting Sponsor: Okuley/Unverferth Dentistry, to bring you what I think will be yet another outstanding series of concerts.

We kick it off with Guy & Ralna of “The Lawrence Welk Show” fame on Sunday, September 18. Ralna lives in the Phoenix area and two of my box office staff and I were fortunate to have a cup of coffee with her this past November while attending a conference in Phoenix.  We already have people from all over the country making lodging and dinner reservations in anticipation of this concert.

Then we follow up Sunday, October 23, with one of my all-time heroes of the music world — the incomparable Doc Severinsen, with his Big Band and vocalist Vanessa Thomas. In my opinion, no one has played trumpet and been such a showman as Doc! Many of us remember him from “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” as he led the band for over three decades on TV. This is a chance to see and hear a true legend and the only remaining member of the trio that also included Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon. And I am here to tell you that Doc can still blow that horn! Amazing!

We take a winter break then before coming back on Saturday, March 18, 2017, with a show we helped produce, along with Robert Nance of the Heartland Singers of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Broadway singer J. Mark McVey of Les Miserables fame. You will enjoy beautiful Broadway and American songs that will have you whistling all the way home. Mark and Bob are also outstanding individuals who are very active in their church music ministries.

If you need to laugh, you won’t want to miss Mutts Gone Nuts and the Robert Post Comedy Theater. Everyone loves animals, and, with this show, you will see them doing some incredible acts that will have you rolling in the aisles. Then to spice things up and give the dogs a needed breather (and possible break — ahem), we have added Robert Post, a comedic favorite of Community Concerts for years. This is a guaranteed combo show that will make you laugh all day long on Sunday, April 30. There’s a story about how I got the two of these together to perform at our venue. Ask me the next time you see me.

We finish the series with a group I heard in New York and I just didn’t want them to stop singing. The Hitmen is a band filled with all stars from such noted bands as Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Carole King, Tommy James, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Vanessa Williams, and many more. Many of the songs you will hear featured the voices of members of The Hitmen. If you grew up listening to music on the radio in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and beyond, you will enjoy this concert as much as I did.

So there you have it: my commentary on a new season of Community Concerts. Becoming a member allows you to reserve your seats first and helps us to keep the quality of performers at the level you have come to enjoy and demand at the Niswonger. Check our website (NPACVW.ORG) or call the box office (419.238.6722) or drop by in person. Our staff and volunteers are always happy to see you!

Until next time!


POSTED: 04/19/16 at 9:43 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

This weekend will be one of the busiest of the entire year.  Friday night, a sold-out house will welcome those singing cowboys, “Riders in the Sky”, as they salute the King of the Cowboys, Roy Rogers.

This talented quartet of cowboys has been doing Western music and comedy the “Cowboy Way” since 1977. I got re-introduced to them nearly two years ago when they were hosting the Grand Ole’ Opry.  We were fortunate to be sitting on the stage, and as they walked off the stage to give way to singer Alison Krauss, I re-introduced myself to these Cowboys and asked if they would like to come to Van Wert, Ohio (again).  Now, nearly two years later, they will take our stage to a sold-out crowd.

They had performed in Fountain Park nearly 12 years ago. Hot off their recording for the movie Toy Story (remember “Woody’s Roundup?”) they came to be a part of our Fountain Park Summer Music Series. Their new show features a salute to Roy Rogers and involves film clips and other material that lends itself to be more effective indoors. Riders in the Sky is the only group given permission by the Roy Rogers estate to show clips of his movies for the public.

Although we don’t have any seats to sell in advance for the Riders in the Sky concert on Friday, there could be a handful become available that night.  The box office opens at 6:30 p.m. when the Grand Lobby opens. If you want to get in, you might be first in line and take advantage of this opportunity, if it comes available. I hope to see you ‘round the campfire Friday night!

After we clean the stage and house from the Riders in the Sky concert (I hope their horses don’t leave us a mess), we will start preparing for a big daytime event at the Niswonger. We call it “Van Wert Blooms.”  It is a joint venture with the Master Gardeners of Van Wert and features five outstanding speakers on many gardening topics.

The featured speaker is P. Allen Smith of PBS TV’s long running show: “Garden Home”.  P. Allen leads off the day with an hour-long fascinating talk and slide show presentation at 9 a.m. Saturday. He will sign books in the lobby following his presentation.

Other outstanding speakers throughout the day are Irvine Etienne, who works at the Indianapolis Museum of Art designing and maintaining its plant and garden areas. Amanda Thomsen is another speaker who comes from Chicago, where she is a landscaper and author of several books, including Grocery Gardening. Barbara Wise is from Nashville, where she also writes for magazines and recently published her first book Container Gardening for All Seasons. Maria Zampini is an author, speaker and consultant for garden related products for plant development for the Agricola Management Group, the exclusive licensee of the HGTV Home Plant collection. Lastly, Pam Bennett is the State Master Gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator and director for The Ohio State University.

The day will be filled with education and fun facts for anyone interested in gardening and landscape work; from the beginner to the expert!  Due to the enormous response to this event, we have opened seating in the balcony for a reduced cost to just the lectures. Call the box office for details.

We at the Niswonger have been privileged to work with Mrs. Louise Hartwig and an outstanding committee of Master Gardeners from Van Wert County. They have organized this wonderful event and should be thanked for their tireless efforts in putting this together.

We then clean the dirt off the floors and stage to make way for the very popular Texas Tenors. These three singers have been sold out at the Niswonger since last fall. They will present a 3 p.m. Sunday matinee concert to finish off our 2015-16 Community Concert Series.  What a way to go out: A sold-out show featuring the Texas Tenors, fresh off an Emmy Award-winning PBS special and many successful national tours. These three guys are not only outstanding singers, but also great entertainers.

As a special thanks, we are holding a pre-concert reception in the First Federal Lecture Hall for all extra supporters of this year’s Community Concert Series. Flour Loves Sugar and Brewed Expressions will provide the goodies to enjoy before the concert. This begins at 2 p.m. when the lobby opens. This extra support helps keep our series as affordable as possible and we want to show our appreciation to these fine folks.

Then, just before we begin the Texas Tenors concert, we will unveil our new Community Concert Series for 2016-17. A preview video and recognition of our sponsors will take the stage.  I can’t wait to let you know who we have on next year’s series. One of my all-time favorites will be coming to the Niswonger! No doubt you will have favorites too!  I invite you to come to this exciting announcement and spectacular show with the Texas Tenors.

A big weekend? You betcha!


POSTED: 04/13/16 at 6:40 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

I have so many things swirling in my head as I sit down to write today’s column. Many times I have a main theme, but today, you will get bits and pieces.

First of all, it’s a cool thing when you go to the movie theater to see a newly released film and see not one, but two performers we’ve gotten to know through their performances at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center right here in Van Wert.

My wife and I saw God’s Not Dead 2 this past Sunday at the Van Wert Cinemas. Not only is it a good film I would highly recommend, it also starred some people I (and some of you) saw on stage (and back stage) of the Niswonger. The stars are really Melissa Joan Hart and Jesse Metcalfe; but also in large supporting roles were Pat Boone and the Newboys. Cool stuff!

Pat Boone performed on our stage last year as a last minute replacement show. At that time, he mentioned to me that he was working in a sequel movie to God’s Not Dead. The very popular Contemporary Christian Rock Band, Newsboys, also performed on our stage two years ago and they also mentioned there was going to be a God’s not Dead 2 that they would be part of once again.

So, I would recommend the movie, as well as attending concerts at the Niswonger. You just never know when you might see them on the silver screen or on TV. As we are working on next season for the Niswonger, I know you will have many chances to see people you have seen, and most likely will see, on TV and/or the movies.

This Sunday, you have the opportunity to see the American Boychoir in concert at 3 p.m. at the Niswonger.  In about another week, you can see them in a movie made for TV and airing on CBS starring Dustin Hoffman and Kathy Bates.  It’s the story of how the boychoir master (director), played by Dustin Hoffman, turns a boy’s life around through music. I invite you to the PAC this Sunday and see the real stars live on our Central Insurance stage.

For those of you who are old enough to remember “The King of the Cowboys”, Roy Rogers, you won’t want to miss Riders in the Sky as they trot into town on Friday, April 15. They’ll invite you to sing and sit around the campfire with them talking about Roy, Dale, Trigger, and all their friends.

I am just old enough to remember (probably) old reruns of the Roy Rogers’ movies on TV Saturday mornings. Those were good times and good days, weren’t they? You can relive those days at the Niswonger come a week from Friday. Get ready to view clips from some of those old Westerns many used to love. And no one sings it better these days than Riders in the Sky!

The show is nearly sold out, pardners, but if you saddle up and ride over the PAC, you just might be able to work your way in, if some holds get released. Come on in and join us for some rip- roarin’ fun!

It’s getting time to fire up the lawn choirs and blankets and head to Fountain Park for some good, fun times at the outdoor concerts. Warm weather is on its way, believe it or not, and we will be ready with eight great concerts and even an outdoor movie after the July 1 concert. All are compliments of Mr. and Mrs. Gaylord Saltzgaber and The Van Wert County Foundation. This is what an investment with The Van Wert County Foundation can do. Stop by and see us sometime. Seth Baker, our executive secretary, would love to talk to you about how you could help someone out years later, just like the Saltzgabers!


POSTED: 04/06/16 at 6:29 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

I know many of you are very proud of our Niswonger Performing Arts Center (commonly referred to as “The PAC”).  It has taken nearly 10 years to earn our respect, but most have become believers in the arts of Van Wert.

It is one thing to blow our own horns, but when you hear about it from “outsiders,” it somehow becomes even more credible. This is the case when a Van Wert County Foundation board member shared an article written recently by the editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. He had attended the BJ Thomas concert on February 27 of this year. It was his first Niswonger concert experience.  He talked about what a beautiful venue we had and what fine acoustics there are. He concluded by saying, “Where have I been for the past nine years?  I will certainly be back!”

It’s amazing how so many Fort Wayne residents feel that Van Wert must be a couple hours away; if they even know where Van Wert is!  The News-Sentinel editor included in his comments that Van Wert is just over a half-hour drive from Fort Wayne. We all know that. Many of them apparently don’t! Now, more will.

It’s not only audience members who are talking positively about the Niswonger PAC.  Many of our performers have commented on what a great experience it was to perform on our stage and for our audience.  They love the acoustics and the intimacy they have with the audience.  We have 1,200 seats in our hall, which puts us on the small to mid-size range for PACs. What many performers enjoy about the Niswonger is that it “feels” good to them.  It’s almost like a living room atmosphere, although there can be up to 1,200 people in the audience.

Performers are consistently requesting we re-book them. Although we do and have, it has been my policy to bring in as many new performers as possible. On occasion, a performer is just so outstanding that you just must have them back.

Another aspect of the Niswonger experience for performers is that they get treated well. Our staff and volunteers do an excellent job of going out of their way to accommodate many of their requests. We still can’t get over the fact that artists would travel so far to share their talent with us. I guess we’ll be fine as long as we continue to treat others nicely. This is a good life lesson for all of us.

Next season is starting to come together. It will be our 10th season and we plan to celebrate in a big way! Stay tuned. Announcements will be made in the future.

Also just around the corner is the Fountain Park Summer Music Series. The first concert will be on June 3. A total of eight concerts and even a post-concert outdoor movie will be featured this summer. Remember to get your name into the hat if you are a non-profit organization wanting some action in serving food at one of the concerts. Contact the Van Wert County Foundation by April 1 to be considered.

We’re not done at the PAC for this season either. The American Boychoir will be in concert on April 10 at 3 p.m.  You won’t want to miss this world famous boychoir in concert at the Niswonger. Get your tickets now!


POSTED: 03/30/16 at 6:46 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

You know me; every show at the Niswonger is pretty much titanic.  But in this case, the Van Wert High School Drama and Music departments are presenting the five-time Tony Award-winning Titanic — the Musical.  Three shows will be presented, starting Thursday night, April 7, and then again on April 8 and 9.  All shows begin at 7 p.m.  Tickets are available at the Niswonger box office.

The Van Wert City Schools now have a teacher, Melissa Bloomfield, dedicated to teaching drama and music, fully utilizing the professional amenities of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. She has worked with our Niswonger staff to put together an impressive show for you to enjoy. I hope you can catch these young actors, actresses and musicians in one of their performances. I know that many months of preparation, scene building, and rehearsing have gone into this show.

With the Central Insurance Stage being utilized by our local performers, we have a few weeks off until April 10 when The American Boychoir comes to perform.  Remember, this is replacing the original concert scheduled on April 3 with Libera. Keep your tickets and use them for The American Boychoir concert.  It will be an exceptional afternoon of music and entertainment starting at 3 p.m. The American Boychoir is world class! You can get your tickets now at the box office or online at NPACVW.ORG.

The following weekend will be a busy one at the Niswonger as we start with the sold-out “Riders in the Sky Salute to Roy Rogers” on Friday, April 15, followed by Van Wert Blooms. This is an all-day event on Saturday, April 16.  We at the Niswonger are presenting this gardening event in cooperation with the Van Wert Master Gardeners.  A slew of gardening experts from all over the U.S. will be talking about great outdoor ideas. Included in this event is the famous P. Allen Smith that many of you watch on TV and have read his books on gardening.

The event was scheduled for just 600 participants, but the response has been so overwhelming that we have opened up extra seating at a reduced cost for just the seminars.  Check with our box office for details.  We are all getting cabin fever and can’t wait to get outside and start working in our yards and gardens.  Come and find out how to make yours spectacular!

Then on Sunday, April 17, The Texas Tenors come to the Niswonger for another sold-out show at 3 pm.  This show has been anticipated for months by ticket buyers.  It has been sold out since nearly September!  It completes our 2015-16 Community Concert Series, and what a way to go out!

We will also be announcing our new Community Concert Series for 2016-17. It features five outstanding and enjoyable concerts and shows; one in particular that has been on my radar screen for many years! I can’t wait to announce it.

Well, that about wraps up our activities for now. Remember to submit your non-profit names to The Van Wert County Foundation Office by April 1 in order to be included in the selection of food servers for this year’s Fountain Park Summer Music Series. Watch the news for the announcement of this summer fun coming real soon. There are lots of surprises coming this summer you won’t want to miss!


POSTED: 03/23/16 at 6:44 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

Hallmark Hall of Fame movies are known to tell stories that are heart-warming, inspirational, and entertaining. One that will air this April 16 on CBS is the story of how a mischievous young boy got his life straightened out by a taskmaster choir director at the American Boychoir Boarding School. Although the boy had a devilish behavior, he had an angelic voice. The movie stars Hollywood legend Dustin Hoffman as the strict disciplinarian choir director who wins the boy over with music.

It’s an inspirational story that features a lot of good music throughout the movie, sung by The American Boychoir. And wouldn’t you know this same American Boychoir is coming to our Niswonger Performing Arts Center for a concert on April 10 for a 3 p.m. matinee performance. What a great opportunity for you to hear these angelic voices from Princeton, New Jersey!

Structured in the style of the traditional and historic English boychoir sound, the American Boychoir has long been known as the preeminent young music choral ensemble in America and among the finest in the world! They have been honored to perform for U.S. presidents since John F. Kennedy, and with such elite performers as Sir Paul McCartney, Wynton Marsalis and pop icon Beyoncé, as well as performing with some of the finest orchestras in the world.

We are extremely honored to have been selected to host this outstanding ensemble during its spring tour. The group is actually replacing another boychoir, Libera, which was unable to make it here from England. Libera was scheduled for April 3 and now we are pleased to be able to replace them with The American Boychoir on April 10.

I hope you get the chance to watch this movie, Hear My Song, on CBS April 16.  But first, make sure you hear these boys live at the Niswonger in Van Wert. Their appearance is brought in part by Strategence Capital LLC/Tim Stoller, financial advisor, in Van Wert, as well as supporters of the Van Wert Area Boychoir.

Our local boychoir will be the great benefactors of this event, as members will be able to socialize with the Princeton boys during a dinner and later a workshop. We are extremely pleased to be able to provide an exceptional opportunity for our boys like this.

Get your tickets now for this outstanding concert. Tickets start at just $15 and can be purchased online at NPACVW.ORG or by calling or visiting our box office at 419.238.NPAC (6722).

As a reminder to non-profit organizations interested in earning some money, contact the Van Wert County Foundation office at 419.238.1743 or stop by and enter your name in the lottery for Fountain Park Summer Music Series concerts. You have until April 1 to enter. I will be announcing the Fountain Park concert line-up in another week. You’re gonna love it!  Many brand new performers are on the series, as well as a few surprises. It will be a fun summer in Fountain Park once again!


POSTED: 03/16/16 at 7:08 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

As concert attendees, you hear me thank our sponsors, underwriters and others who help financially support that event. I imagine, a lot of times, you take it for granted and know that you are going to hear the similar rhetoric as before. I’ve been there. I know how it is. But I want everyone to know just how valuable these supporters are. And to the sponsor, there is great value in potential buyers hearing their name repeatedly mentioned. You know this from all the TV and radio ads you have ever seen and heard.

Specifically to the Niswonger Performing Arts Center, we have seen enormous growth in the amount of support we have been fortunate to acquire. We are now in the midst of planning for our 10th season.  A few of us have been around for every year … and even beyond that while in the planning stages of our facility and its operation.

I remember the first complete season and budget I ever put together. We had an operating budget of about 15 percent of what we currently have. Our offerings of events, i.e., concerts, speakers, shows, rentals, have increased by nearly 300 percent.  But even more so, the quality and cost of the events we are bringing in have experienced a big crescendo over the nine years. If our average concert used to cost around $15,000, we are now looking at more than double that as an average, and our highest priced events are now much more.

This is all part of our growth.  My board, our staff and I are extremely appreciative to all who have contributed to this growth.  In the industry of performing arts, I get to talk with many other presenters throughout the region and country who have experienced a diminuendo (sorry for all the musical terms, but I guess that’s how I think!) in their events and quality of offerings to their patrons.

The growth we have experienced could not happen without you, the ticket buyers, as well as the sponsors and underwriters. The value we can now offer to these people has grown exponentially! Our reach in the region has increased to a much broader clientele. Our goal is to make a sponsor’s support one of their best reasons for investing their money.

Ticket buyers used to represent a huge percentage of our overall budget.  Now, even with our huge growth in ticket buyers, our sponsors have stepped up to represent a more industry standard part of our budget.  So when you hear that Van Wert Federal Savings Bank and StateWide Ford are our season sponsors, know that their support is invaluable to us, and you the ticket buyer. Or when a presenting or supporting sponsor has given to a certain concert, let them know how much you appreciate them. They have just made your ticket more affordable.

They have also allowed us to step up our game by bringing even more appealing concerts and artists to Van Wert. That deserves a special “pat on the back” and maybe even a “going out of your way” to thank them.

There are so many individuals, businesses and corporations to thank for the success of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. So the next time you hear us thank a certain underwriter or sponsor, take notice and be thankful, with us, for what they have provided all of us.  It is a team effort between them, you, the ticket buyer, and us to continue making this work.

I am thankful and grateful for all the supporters of the arts. It enriches our community as well as our economy. We in Van Wert are provided something most other communities our size envy. I know this because I am told quite often. Let’s never take for granted what we have, where we have come from, and where we expect to go.

It is now March and soon it will be time to announce the Fountain Park Summer Music Series. In the meantime, The Van Wert County Foundation is taking names of non-profit organizations that would like to serve food and raise some funds at one of the summer concerts.  It is a whole new line-up and there will be some big things in store this summer. Call The Van Wert County Foundation (419.238.1743), stop by (138 E. Main St.), or email me at


POSTED: 03/08/16 at 8:39 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

This Sunday, you will have the opportunity to hear about an outstanding individual by meeting his son. Luke Zamperini will be speaking at the Niswonger this Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.  Luke is the son of Louis Zamperini, who unfortunately passed on in 2014.

Some of you may be familiar with Louis’ story, maybe through the book or perhaps the movie Unbroken. If you have seen or read this story, you no doubt are interested in hearing his son’s personal account. And if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, you absolutely need to come this Sunday to hear about this amazing man.

I realize the word “amazing” is overused these days, but in the case of Louis Zamperini, it is most appropriate.

Louis was an Olympic athlete as a runner in the Berlin Olympics of 1936. Following his Olympic feats, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps and became a bombardier in the Pacific in World War II.

Following a crash in the middle of the Pacific, he survived in a lifeboat at sea for a miraculous 47 days. The story of his survival is amazing in itself. He eventually was rescued, only to have it be by the Japanese.

He became a prisoner of war and the story continues again to be amazing. As a prisoner, he was put through incredible torture, perhaps partially because he was known as an Olympic hero. The stories of his treatment are beyond belief, yet through all of this, they were unable to break him. Thus the title of his book and movie of his story: “Unbroken.”

The movie, which was artfully produced and directed by Angelina Jolie, leaves the story at this point. An incredible story to be told … but not the whole story! You must read the book and/or come to the Niswonger this Sunday to find out “the rest of the story”, as Paul Harvey used to say.

Luke Zamperini will share with us first-hand stories his father used to tell him of his experiences. The most amazing part of the story is that, through his father’s conversion to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, he found it in his heart to forgive his Japanese captors who so severely mistreated him during the war. In case you haven’t heard the story, I won’t give it all away. But I do hope that you are intrigued enough to come to the Niswonger this Sunday to hear Luke, see a film clip, and hear him talk and take questions about the life of his amazing father.

Luke lives in Los Angeles, where he is the chief inspector and Public Information Officer for the City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety. He is flying in from the West Coast just to share with all of us the story of his father. Tickets are $20 for any seat in the house. First Federal is the proud sponsor of this event, with support from Times Bulletin Media, Walmart, and Paulding Putnam Electric.

Unfortunately, Louis Zamperini passed on in 2014, but his son is continuing to speak all over the world and keeping his father’s legacy alive. The story of redemption and forgiveness is even more so amazing when you discover what he had to overcome. I invite you to the Niswonger to be inspired by the story of one of America’s real heroes. Louis Zamperini is not only an American hero, he is a hero of all mankind!


POSTED: 03/01/16 at 4:27 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

If it seems that you haven’t been to the Niswonger as much lately, you may be right; but that’s about to change. We intentionally try to avoid booking concerts during the traditionally rough months of the year, although sometimes it just can’t be avoided completely.

The last concert was Air Supply on February 6. It will soon be three weeks, but the action is about to begin again.

If you have been missing the Niswonger, your opportunities are going to change. This Saturday, pop music legend B.J. Thomas and his band will be joined by the Lima Symphony Orchestra on stage for what I believe will be a magical night of music.

Since I am actually playing in this concert, I have had the chance to see the playlist and I am here to tell you I was amazed at how many songs I was familiar with. I remember playing with Frankie Valli a few years ago and I was amazed at how many of his songs I knew and had forgotten.

It’s always great to hear these classic songs again, especially with the band and a live orchestra backing them up. It’s like listening to the songs on the radio, only you are now really there, hearing it live. Live music is always better!

Don’t miss B.J. Thomas’ concert this Saturday. Pop classics, country tunes, and some great gospel charts will fill the playlist.

The next week, we break into March (I know, where did winter go? Did it ever come?), as we welcome a fun group of ukulele players and singers from New Zealand. This could be one of the more fun concerts of the entire season. The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra takes the stage for frolic, fun, and music. Not only for that, but you will also hear a couple dozen local middle school kids play “ukes” on stage with the Wellingtoners (not sure that’s a word). Wellingtonians? Oh, well.

The school kids have been learning a song by Taylor Swift and can’t wait to show you their ukulele skills on the Niswonger stage. This is on March 3.

“Ohio Has Talent!” rents our stage on Saturday, March 5. This is always a lot of fun as local and regional talent performs for you, the audience, who get to vote on the winner. And there can’t be a better cause than to help Community Health Professionals — the ones who help so many others. “Angels in the health profession”, I call them.

If you feel like being inspired and enlightened, then you don’t want to miss Luke Zamperini as he talks about his father’s amazing story, which has been told in the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, as well as Angelina Jolie’s recent movie by the same title.

It is one of the most amazing true stories you will ever hear of a World War II soldier’s story of survival and, later, redemption and forgiveness.

Luke will be here to share the story of his father, Louis. We thank our Speaker Committee for bringing this amazing story to the Niswonger. Don’t miss this inspirational story. CBS, Hollywood, and the Billy Graham Association have all captured this story for audiences to be inspired by.

Luke Zamperini will be at the Niswonger on Sunday, March 6, at 3 p.m. to share this story.

Well, there’s more after this, but this should be a good start to get you going again. A few tickets remain for each of these events, so I hope to see you soon.


POSTED: 02/24/16 at 7:41 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert