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The Van Wert County Courthouse

Monday, Jul. 25, 2016


Music in Van Wert

By: Paul Hoverman


Last January, I met for the first time a person I had grown up watching on TV.  I imagine you are like me and also watched TV’s “Happy Days”.  It ran from 1974 through 1984 on ABC and was one of the highest rated shows for many of those 11 years.  You remember the gang of Richie Cunningham, Potsie, Ralph Malph, and The Fonz, among others.  They depicted the typical American family growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s.

“Happy Days” was so popular that it launched a number of spin-offs you might recall, such as “Laverne & Shirley”, and “Mork and Mindy” as well as others. The setting was Milwaukee, Wisconsin: not your typical TV setting of today. The theme song “Happy Days” actually replaced the original opening song of Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.”

Anton Williams (Potsie) and  me.

Anson Williams (Potsie) and me.

For 11 years, “Happy Days” ruled the airwaves and made us laugh. Many of those laughs came from the “three amigos” of Richie, Potsie, and Ralph. Richie was obviously played by Ron Howard, Opie to most of us when he started on TV. Ralph was played by Donnie Most and was often quoted for saying boastfully, “I’ve still got it!” Potsie was played by Anson Williams and could often be heard singing on several episodes.

Back to last January: I was in New York City going from booth to booth looking for talent to bring to the Niswonger and I just happened to come to a booth of one of my agent friends, Tom Fowler of Capital Productions International. Tom said, “Hey, I want you to meet a friend of mine, Anson Williams.” Well, it didn’t take me long to see that I was shaking hands with Potsie himself! We shared a few pleasantries and I told him thanks for all the happy days on TV.  My, how he made my dad laugh! I would love to hear my dad laugh again. Many of you know what I mean. Well, I had the wits to ask Potsie for a picture. The results are what you see above.

Anson was a nice, down-to-earth man and was very approachable. He told me about the stage show he was starting to take on the road with his old friend, Donnie Most (Ralph Malph). He said they have a great time sharing stories and watching film cuts of “Happy Days”, as well as performing music from that era. Ironically, although it was Potsie who sang on the TV show most often, it’s Donnie who has gone on to perform the most (no pun intended) since the TV show went off the air.

Donnie, or Don Most as I think he now prefers to be called, is a very good big band singer and will be accompanied on their stage show with a big band as he and Anson sing music from the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Anson convinced me we should bring this fun show to the Niswonger and now you have the opportunity to see these guys and relive those happy days on our stage come October 1 at 7:30 p.m.

Wouldn’t you know as I was walking out of the Hilton in Manhattan after meeting Anson, who should I see but Don Most standing alone in the lobby? Well, I just had to take the opportunity to meet him, too. So I walked up to him and said I hope to see you in Van Wert, Ohio, next year. He was a bit more timid than Anson, but said, “Thanks, I’ll look forward to it!” We’ll see if he remembers our chance meeting come October 1.

Many tickets have been bought up already through Grand Series and Select Series purchases, but now you can purchase individual tickets for “Happy Days Live!” beginning today (July 20). We still have some great seats available, with tickets starting at just $20, and they can be purchased by calling the box office, stopping by, or online at NPACVW.ORG.  Come October 1, I’m sure you’ll want to say, “Goodbye gray skies, hello blue” and get some laughs at the Niswonger with “Happy Days Live!” Potsie and Ralph will be expecting you!

This Friday night in Fountain Park will be an exciting and fun one. Country fiddler Chris Higbee (formerly of Poverty Neck Hillbillies) and his band will entertain. He has been referred to as a young Charlie Daniels. One thing for sure, he will fiddle up a storm; and there could be some real surprises come Friday night!  I’m just sayin’.  Come and find out.  Music begins at 7 p.m. and Portal 2L20, a new non-profit teen center, will be serving the food.


POSTED: 07/20/16 at 7:16 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

After a week off for Van Wert County Foundation sponsored concerts in Fountain Park, we return this Friday with a tribute to one of Rhythm & Blues’ all-time greatest singer and songwriters: Stevie Wonder.  Natural Wonder is a tribute to Wonder’s music in a re-creation by Gabriel Bello and his band.  Although there are other impersonators of Stevie Wonder’s music, Natural Wonder is the real thing, with all live music created by guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, horn section, and rhythm section.

Growing up in Massachusetts, and later Florida, Gabriel honed his musical skills and love for music singing in church choirs. Following what Bello says was a miraculous healing from cancer, he began using his talents in churches as a choir and worship leader. He still is quite involved today in church music when he is not touring with Natural Wonder.

As a solo career, Gabriel was a finalist to be “American Idol” alumna Carrie Underwood’s music director, as well as being approached to be Kelli Pickler’s music director. One thing led to another and, in 2012, Gabriel formed the band Natural Wonder as a tribute to one of his favorite performers of all-time: Stevie Wonder.

Fountain Park will be filled with the sounds of Stevie Wonder (and) you will recognize song after song as they are re-created by the “Ultimate Tribute” to this American iconic singer/songwriter.

Bring a lawn chair or blanket or just mill around the park to the sounds of Stevie Wonder this Friday night beginning at 7 p.m.  We’ll trust the weather forecast and say it will be a beautiful evening with clouds and sun and temperatures in the low ‘80s.  After all, the weatherman is never wrong! Right?

Appropriately so, Youth for Christ will be serving the food in the park this Friday night. Come and support this very important youth ministry in our community and enjoy a meal before or during the concert. YFC should be ready to serve you by 5:30 Friday evening.

Thank you all for getting us off to a tremendous start of ticket sales at the Niswonger. We just opened up Select Series sales last week and tickets have been flying out of the box office. Buy 3-5 concerts and receive a 10 percent discount or buy six or more and take 15 percent off your purchase. Either way, you select what you want to attend in the upcoming “Season of Wow” at the Niswonger. This also allows you to reserve your seats now before open sales begin. So many good concerts and shows to choose from!

Take a look at our menu of entertainment in our catalog or go online at NPACVW.ORG and browse electronically. We can’t wait to welcome you back to the Niswonger as we celebrate our “Tenth Year of Wow!”


POSTED: 07/13/16 at 6:41 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

One of the biggest holidays at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center is coming this week!  This Thursday, July 7, is the beginning of the Select Series sales.

Over the past several years, this day has become a much-anticipated one for many patrons of the Niswonger.  Doors to the Grand Lobby and sales of Select Series will begin at noon on Thursday.  Those attending in person will be given a number and served in the order of their appearance.

We enjoy seeing so many of our friends on this day.  We open up extra stations, as many as our server will allow, serving each patron as quickly and efficiently as possible. We will be showing a promotional video in the First Federal Lecture Hall, where people can sit, relax, view the video, and ask questions. I always enjoy watching patrons talk with each other about what choices they intend to make. By the way, refreshments are always available while you wait.

This year, there are 25 events to choose from. The gala concert featuring Bernadette Peters with the Boston Pops Orchestra on April 1 will become available to the open public beginning January 4. There are ways to purchase gala tickets earlier by buying a membership or Grand Series. Feel free to ask the box office about this.

The 2016-17 Niswonger season is filled with such variety of options once again. Some of the big name concerts will likely be very popular during Select Series time, but allow me to say a word about a select few events that might not be as well known. Vocalosity on October 22 will be an exciting show of young a cappella voices put together by Deke Sharon, the creative mind who produced “The Sing-Off” and “Pitch Perfect” for TV. He personally auditioned and selected over a dozen male and female voices for this touring show, which took off last year primarily on college campuses throughout the country. I understand they even do a little barbershop music and have been written up in national barbershop publications.

Another show that could fly under your radar screen may be Artrageous. This is a very unique and highly entertaining show of music and visual art. We are proud to be working alongside Wassenberg Art Center to bring this to you. Live musicians will perform music the likes of Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, Ray Charles, and others while artists will be on stage painting portraits of the musician whose music they are performing.  It looked so cool I just had to bring it to Van Wert for you to experience.

One last show I will mention is “Broadway & Beyond”, which can be purchased as part of the Community Concert Series (a great bargain) or independently. This is a show I have helped create with two performing artist friends of mine. J. Mark McVey, who appeared with Signature Sound on our stage back in 2014 with the “Inspiration of Broadway”, will now join forces with the Heartland Singers of Fort Wayne to perform a newly created show: “Broadway & Beyond”.

We have had discussion of the content and I believe it will be a tremendously enjoyable evening of beautiful music on March 18. J. Mark McVey is a seasoned Broadway veteran, having performed the role of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables 3,268 times. Included in those performances were London’s West End — the first American singer to sing that role in London — and with the Los Angeles Philharmonic to a sold-out Hollywood Bowl performance.  He was also featured in the 25th anniversary tour of Les Mis.

He will join his voice with the Heartland Singers and instrumentalists under the direction of Maestro Robert Nance to create a memorable night at the Niswonger. We are hopeful this will launch the show nationally, with the premier, of course, at the Niswonger.

A couple updates on other coming Niswonger attractions that made news recently: Mutts Gone Nuts, which will be here on April 30, was recently on ABC’s “The View”. I also heard that REO Speedwagon, which will appear the day before on April 29, just sang the “National Anthem” on July 4 for the Chicago White Sox-New York Yankees game. Just thought you would like to know!

This Friday night, a combined concert with the Van Wert Area Community Concert Band and the St. Marys Area Community Band will be featured in Fountain Park. I hope you can attend this first-ever event as these two bands will entertain individually, as well as combined with exciting band music selected especially for you.

Directors Richard Sherrick and Dane Newlove hope to welcome a big crowd to Fountain Park this Friday night at 7 p.m.  And bring your appetites, as food will be available in the Rotary concession booth.


POSTED: 07/06/16 at 7:03 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

This Friday night in Fountain Park, the Lima Pops Orchestra will take the stage to lead us in an early Fourth of July Celebration of America.  The concert will be filled with patriotic tunes, marches, American film scores, American pop tunes, and much more.  Vocalist Kirsten Osbun-Manley from Ohio Northern University will add some vocal flavor to the program.

Maestro Crafton Beck will return to direct the orchestra in what he calls one of his favorite outdoor concert venues: Fountain Park in Van Wert.

If you get to the park early enough, you might be able to get a complimentary U.S. flag to wave during the concert. There will be plenty of patriotic tunes to instill patriotism in the hearts of concertgoers. Linda Hartman has taken it upon herself to collect donations from elected officials in Van Wert, as well as others of interest, to purchase U.S. flags. She and some helpers will be at the park to distribute them to adults who may return them afterward or purchase them for a dollar. Smaller flags will be given to children to help instill patriotism in the younger generation. Thank you, Linda, and all your helpers and donors!

New Hope Recovery will be serving some delicious food from the Rotary concession stand by 5:30 p.m. By the way, in mentioning the Rotary concession stand and restroom facility, we should mention a person who passed this week who was a huge part of building it: Wayne Compton, Rotarian, building constructor, and business owner, and all round great Van Wert citizen. If it wasn’t for Wayne Compton, I’m not sure we would have this building in Fountain Park. In his mid-80s, Wayne helped lead a volunteer crew with assistance from Alexander & Bebout in the construction of the Rotary concession and restroom building. Wayne was a giving man who accomplished many great things, including surviving the Battle of the Bulge in WW II.  Thanks Wayne, you’ll be missed!

Now back to Friday night. Following the concert with the Lima Symphony Pops Orchestra, the fun will continue!  We will be making a quick transition to an outdoor movie theater.  I figure the concert will end around 9 p.m. At that time, a huge inflatable movie screen will appear and get hooked into the concert sound system and, by 9:30 p.m., we should be ready to sit back, lay on a blanket or the grass, and enjoy E.T.: the Extra Terrestrial. This American family science fiction film, directed by Stephen Spielberg and written by Melissa Mathison, is a perfect family film to enjoy outside.

Main Street Van Wert will be in the park selling popcorn and drinks for you to enjoy as you settle in for the evening once the sun goes down to enjoy the movie.  Many people have been asking for another movie in the park, so we deiced to schedule it with our July 4 celebration leading into Holiday at Home.

Mentioning Holiday at Home, plan on sticking around for the parade on Monday, beginning at 11 a.m., and then enjoy time at the Van Wert Historical Museum for more fun and food. Van Wert Rotary Club will be serving food at the museum following the parade.

I know many of you are gearing up to buy your Grand Series tickets at the Niswonger. Just as a reminder, you can start purchasing those today (Wednesday, June 29).  If you are planning to pick your concerts from the buffet line, the Select Series sales begin July 7. So get your catalogs out or check online at NPACVW.ORG and make your selections now so you are ready for the big sale dates. It’s “Ten Years of Wow” we are celebrating at the Niswonger this year. I hope you can join us.

Thank you all for your continued support of our Fountain Park concerts and those indoors at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. We’ll keep the fun coming, thanks to the generosity of The Van Wert County Foundation and people like you!

FINÉ (many people ask me why I say this at the end of my columns each week. FINÉ is a musical term that means “the end.” Now you know).

FINÉ (again).

POSTED: 06/28/16 at 10:40 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

The context of this column tells it all in the title, “Beginnings to a new Niswonger season.”  It may not be exactly as you were thinking.  It actually has a double meaning.  You see, this week in Fountain Park, the band Beginnings is performing on Friday night.  But we also just announced a new season at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center: Ten Years of Wow!

We’ll start with Beginnings — the Ultimate Tribute to Chicago.  It seems today that just about every band is the ultimate tribute to whomever. In this case, Beginnings has been around since 2002 and is filled with outstanding New York musicians who love the music of the band Chicago and have had a great deal of success since giving tribute concerts.

This is not the same Chicago tribute band we have had in the past. Their name is Brass Transit and they are an outstanding band too. So many of you enjoyed them a few years back and they are still one of my all-time favorites. Beginnings is a group I heard showcased in New York City this past January. Some showcases I attend, I listen and move on; however, in this case, I didn’t want these guys to stop playing. They went on for about 30 minutes and obviously, I just didn’t get enough of them. I felt you might think the same way, so here they are this Friday night in Fountain Park. To be quite honest, I felt the horn section with this band was one of the best I have heard.

The concert starts at 7 p.m. and the First United Methodist Women will be serving up some delicious food out of the Rotary Concession Booth beginning around 5:30 that evening. The weather should be great and the music will be filled with tunes nearly everyone will know, recognize and love. Spread the word, this band is worth hearing. Invite your friends to a fun-filled family evening in Fountain Park this Friday night.

Now to the new season at the Niswonger.  We had a tremendous unveiling event last week to announce the 2016-17 season at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio.  It is filled with 28 performances and events throughout the upcoming year.  When a season offers everything from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood to REO Speedwagon, you can truly say it offers something for everyone.

It’s not just the two extreme concerts I just mentioned, but it’s really everything in between. You really need to check it out.  Go to our website at NPACVW.ORG or take a look at our catalog (which can also be viewed on the website) and see what hidden gems might be in the middle of this season: Ten Years of Wow!

And if you aren’t yet wowed enough, we have planned a Ten Year Gala Celebration concert featuring Bernadette Peters and the Boston Pops Orchestra. This is literally more than I could have even imagined, but sometimes the stars just line up. The Boston Pops just happened to be touring the Midwest this spring and I just happened to call at the exact right time. They had just performed with Bernadette Peters twice the previous year, opening the Tanglewood season as well as the Pops’ own season. Keith Lockhart, director of The Pops, will be conducting and loves working with Bernadette. Thanks to the Big Three: Scott Niswonger, Central Insurance, and The Van Wert County Foundation, along with support from The Kenn-Feld Group, we have been able to put this truly once-in-a-lifetime concert event together for Van Wert, Ohio.

The Niswonger Box Office is currently accepting memberships that allow early purchase options to the season. Check with the box office to see how you can be included in the Season of Wow! at the Niswonger. All sale dates are listed on the website and in the catalog. We mailed nearly 15,000 copies to past ticket buyers and they are being delivered in the mail as we speak.

When you attend the concert in Fountain Park this Friday, we will have an information table and people who can answer questions and distribute materials.  I look forward to seeing you in the park as we celebrate Beginnings to a new season!


POSTED: 06/22/16 at 5:56 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

Today is the day we announce the entire 2016-17 season at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. Every year has become more and more special, but this year is an announcement of our 10th anniversary season and you can bet it is loaded with outstanding concerts and events.

Wanting to make this 10-year anniversary special, my board and I wanted to have an appropriate gala concert and celebration.  It took months in the making, but even I am amazed at what we have come up with. If you are available today (May 15), we invite you to our unveiling of the season and our gala concert celebration. Starting at 11:30 a.m. in the Niswonger’s Van Wert Federal Grand Lobby and First Federal’s Lecture Hall, we are serving up lunch, compliments of Van Wert Pizza Hut and some desserts from Truly Divine of Van Wert. Then at noon, we will begin a program of recognizing sponsors, welcoming media from the region, and then announce through a specially produced video, our season and Gala performance.  We should be wrapped up by 1 p.m. so you can go out into the public to help spread the news.

Next week’s column will allow me time to talk about the season a little more in detail.  It will feature 23 outstanding concerts of variety as well as three exciting, inspiring, and educational speakers.  We will also share selling dates and other valuable information at our noon Unveiling Event today.  Catalogs have been printed and are currently in the mail to nearly 16,000 previous ticket buying residents throughout the U.S. and Canada.

“Ten years of Wow!” is the slogan we have put to our new season. I am sure “wow” is an appropriate word to use for this season. As I said, even I said “Wow!” when I put it all together.  We look forward to seeing you and sharing the good news of 10 years at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio.

Now on to Fountain Park. This Friday night features a concert I know some of you have especially been looking forward to. It is “Madrigal: the Ultimate Tribute to Carlos Santana,” starting at 7 p.m. I know there are some real Carlos Santana fans out there. José Madrigal is a guitarist/vocalist who lives in the Cincinnati area and has put together an outstanding band of musicians who perform the music of Carlos Santana.

Those of you familiar with Santana’s music appreciate the energy of Latin, Jazz, Rock, Fusion, and Blues that comes with his music.  We were fortunate for them to have an open Friday night several months ago when I booked them. They are a growing band in popularity and I think you will really enjoy their music and showmanship Friday night.

Serving up delicious food for you to enjoy in the park will be the Van Wert Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. Although this non-profit organization receives some government funding, it is always looking for additional funding to help its cause of promoting Van Wert County. Your support of CVB will not only help its cause, but also fill your appetite!  If we should run into a completely rainy day, the concert could be moved into the Niswonger.  Let’s all hope we can enjoy another fun and beautiful day and evening in Fountain Park. I’m sure you will enjoy the fun, music, food, and great fellowship.


POSTED: 06/15/16 at 6:39 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

This summer marks the 15th year of concerts in Fountain Park sponsored by The Van Wert County Foundation. What began as an experiment has blossomed into one of the most anticipated and attended outdoor concert series in the state and the region. Most Friday nights throughout the summer, you can expect a concert at the edge of downtown Van Wert in Fountain Park, free of charge.

Some of us old-timers can remember concerts with ice cream socials in what was then called Third Ward Park. Pictures can certainly be found of such community gatherings. I can remember, as a member of the Van Wert High School Band, playing concerts in the middle of the park, sitting in a concrete band stage. I believe it was a VW Band Parents fundraiser and the high school band would preview some of its music for the upcoming football season.

Remember the old cranked ice cream freezers? And the big tubs of bottled pop on ice? Bottled water? You would have thought that was a ridiculous idea back then! After all, there was a water fountain to drink water from … free of charge! My, how times have changed.

Starting 15 years ago, I was empowered by The Van Wert County Foundation to start an ongoing concert series throughout the summer. The only thing going on in Fountain Park at that time was an occasional local concert and the community band; then called the Masonic Band. They would play three times per summer in the park.

Thankfully, the community concert band has continued as John and Jean Ann Auld passed the baton to Elmer Broecker, former Lincolnview band director, who passed the baton on to Richard Sherrick, retired Parkway band director. The band is actually flourishing under Sherrick’s direction and will start the summer off in Fountain Park this Friday night. The concert begins at 7 p.m., just as the Fountain Park Summer Music concerts do.

I just saw the Van Wert Parks Department putting our new Fountain Park Summer Music Series sign up on the crossbar of the current band shell. The old one has served us well for 14 years, but was becoming tattered and unusable any longer.  We have replaced it with a colorful new one that welcomes everyone to music in Fountain Park throughout the summer.

Following this Friday’s concert with the Van Wert Area Community Concert Band, we start with the first of eight professional concerts on Friday, June 3.  This is Peony and Art-Rageous festivals’ weekend and, if we have good weather, promises to be a big crowd to open our season. There will be food vendors, in addition to the Peony Festival Committee serving food out of the Rotary Concession Booth.

The Together Band will be playing songs you know and love from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.  It will be a family friendly atmosphere, where everyone can come to the park, mingle, catch up with friends from the community, and greet many visitors to our friendly city.

If we ever run into day-long rains that prevent us from being outdoors, we will move into the Niswonger Performing Arts Center on Ohio 118 (South Shannon Street) on the south edge of town.  This is a last resort, but a good option to have. You will know if you drive by the park and don’t see any activity by 4 p.m.

Speaking of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center, the date has been set for the unveiling of the 2016-17 Grand Series. It will be June 15. Mark your calendars now and plan to be the first to know about our big 10th year of “Wow” at the Niswonger. More details to come.

Until then, here’s to a beautiful, sunny, and warm summer of Friday nights and a whole lot of musical fun, fellowship, and food in Fountain Park … for the 15th year in a row.


POSTED: 05/24/16 at 11:40 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

As summer struggles to arrive, many of us are starting to think of summer music concerts in Fountain Park.  The first one is just 2½ weeks away on June 3, although Mother Nature has some work to do between now and June 3!  I’m confident she’ll come around.

That first Friday in June also marks the beginning of the Peony and Art-Rageous festivals. To help celebrate, we have a concert featuring some of the best music from the ‘60s through the ‘80s. The Together Band will get you in the mood for a festive weekend.

To see and even hear some of the Fountain Park concerts, visit NPACVW.ORG. Go to tickets and events and then click on Summer Music Series. You will see pictures, descriptions, and even video clips of most of the bands you will enjoy in Fountain Park this summer. You can also read about the concerts on The Van Wert County Foundation website:, as well as the Van Wert City Parks & Recreation website: If that doesn’t work for you, just stop by The Van Wert County Foundation office or the Niswonger box office and pick up a flyer.

The Van Wert County Foundation is proud to work in concert with the Van Wert Parks & Recreation Department and also to utilize the Niswonger Performing Arts Center’s website to bring you as much information as possible about the upcoming summer concerts. We are fortunate at the Niswonger to have one of the most interactive websites around. We can provide exciting information to help you become an informed concert attender.

While you are looking on the website, you will also notice the recently released Community Concert Series for 2016-17. Many of these concerts are drawing lots of interest from all over. People are reserving hotels and eateries already in anticipation of an upcoming concert at the Niswonger. Right now, you can buy the entire Community Concert Series for as little as $75. That’s just $15 per concert. What a deal!

Just as you can check out the Fountain Park performers, you can see a video of all five Community Concert performers. Check them out. If you do, I’m convinced you will want to get this series now, before single ticket buyers start snatching up all the good seats.

As of right now, here is what we have coming your way:

June 3 — The Together Band

June 17 — Madrigal (Carlos Santana Tribute)

June 24 — Beginnings (Tribute to the music of Chicago)

July 1 — Lima Pops Orchestra (Salute to America!)… followed by family movie night in the park

July 15 — Natural Wonder (Stevie Wonder Experience)

July 22 — Chris Higbee (Country Fiddling phenom)

July 29 — Feller & Hill and the Bluegrass Buckaroos

August 12 — The McCartney Years

September 18 — Guy & Ralna (formerly of the Lawrence Welk Show) at the Niswonger

October 23 — Doc Severinsen (at the Niswonger)

March 18 — Broadway and Beyond  (at the Niswonger)

April 30 — Mutts Gone Nuts with the Robert Post Comedy Theater (at the Niswonger)

May 6 — The Hitmen (at the Niswonger)

There is much more to come! Stay tuned. But for now, I’d say this is a pretty good start.


POSTED: 05/18/16 at 6:59 am. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

With the calendar flipping over to May and with the Niswonger Performing Arts Center concerts now in the books for 2015-16, it is certainly time to start thinking about Fountain Park concerts.  We are exactly one month from the opening concert of the Van Wert County Foundation sponsored Fountain Park concerts.

It will be another huge weekend with the Peony and Art-Rageous Festival going on in conjunction with our concert on June 3. The Together Band will open our summer season. They are a fun band that plays hit songs from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Hailing from the Port Clinton area, this band has made a tradition of providing good family fun, with music everyone loves and recognizes, and have performed at festivals and concert series throughout Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana.

They come highly recommended and I think you will love them as they open our season in Fountain Park, along with all the other festivities surrounding the park.

After a week off, we return for three straight Friday nights. Another new band from Cincinnati will take our stage on June 17. Madrigal is “The Ultimate Tribute” to Carlos Santana and I know a lot of you are looking forward to this concert. Then on June 24, we present a band called Beginnings, a tribute to the music of Chicago — the band. I heard them this past year in New York and just fell in love with their magnificent horn line and soaring vocals. I didn’t want them to stop singing, so I brought them to Van Wert. I think you’ll enjoy them as much as I did.

The traditional Independence Day concert will fall on July 1 for us this year. The Lima Pops Orchestra will return with its “Celebration of America” concert. This is always a great way to begin the Fourth of July holiday weekend.  And to make it even a little more special for everyone, we will be showing an outdoor movie following the concert. A huge inflatable movie screen will go up in front of the band pavilion right after the concert and, as soon as it is dark enough, we will show Disney’s original Jungle Book movie from 1967. With all the excitement about the current Jungle Book movie, I think many will enjoy seeing the original movie. It’s a fun animated Disney picture, perfect for the entire family!

That just takes us through the first half of the summer. There will be four more exciting concerts for you to enjoy, beginning July 15 and going through August 12.  I will tell you more about them in the near future. You can also go to the Niswonger website, the Van Wert City Parks website and the Van Wert County Foundation website for more information on the entire season lineup.

Well, our First United Methodist Choir is headed out to the Pacific Northwest this Saturday. We are one of 27 performing ensembles invited to perform at the United Methodist General Conference. I am sure it will be a memorable trip. Thank you to all who have helped support us in our venture of heading out west. Your prayers will be appreciated as we travel and minister in music.

By the way, while we are in Seattle, we plan on catching up with a couple Van Wert natives who currently live there. One of my high school friends, Dr. Tom Marxen, has a cosmetic dental practice located in Woodenville, Washington. Many of you will remember Tom as the son of Dr. Marxen, who was a surgeon in Van Wert for many years. Tom was a very fine trumpet player in the Van Wert Bands.

We will also be touching base with Lyndsay Brooks Pepple. She is the daughter of George and Altha Brooks, who still live in Van Wert. Lyndsay actually used to work for us at Hoverman Music Center. It’s always good to bring a little of Van Wert lovin’ to some former Van Wertians!

Because of our trip, I will catch you in “Music in Van Wert” in two weeks. Until then, keep a song in your heart!


POSTED: 05/03/16 at 10:14 pm. FILED UNDER: Music in Van Wert

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