In a recent article, the headlines screamed, “Curtains Closing?” (Sept. 23, A1.) My immediate reaction was simply this: Why?
I, like many concerned Hancock County citizens, attended the meeting of the Hancock County Council. At that meeting, I had an opportunity to watch local government, private citizens and interested parties come together. I had an opportunity to meet many folks who were stirred by the article.
I met a lady that had driven to Greenfield from Anderson. I met Amy Studabaker and many others concerned with the possible closing of Ricks.
I believe all parties are definitely concerned with keeping Ricks open. As with most conundrums, the basic problem is a lack of communication. In Hancock County, we have various groups that play a part in the process.
We have the Hancock County Visitors Bureau. The HCVB actually owns the theater building. We also have the Tourism Commission. We have the innkeepers, or hotel owners, whose taxes have historically funded the theater. We, of course, also have the taxpayers of Hancock County.
To say that the funding is complicated would be an understatement. However, the bottom line is simply this: How do we move forward with making the Ricks a viable entity to attract tourism to Hancock County?
I think Brigette Cook Jones defined tourism best, writing in the Daily Reporter publication, “Discover Hancock County.” Brigette wrote, “First of all, really, there are three types of tourists that come to Hancock County: Those who stay overnight for business or pleasure; those who are day-tripping or attending special events; and thirdly, those that are here for only part of a day.”
We can and must get the word out to Indianapolis, Richmond, Muncie, Anderson and even cities in Illinois and Ohio that the Ricks is a viable venue to stage one-night or a multi-night production.
We also must get the word out to travelers along the I-70 corridor what we have in Greenfield.
Almost all of the various boards mentioned agree the Ricks is vital to the economic growth of Hancock County.
Here is my proposal: simply work together. Finger-pointing must stop.
I agree with local government that taxpayer accountability is paramount. I also agree with the innkeepers that the Ricks must show that it is a draw to Hancock County. I further agree with the tourism commission that it is attempting to market the Ricks. Here is my solution.
Appeal directly to local charities for immediate funding. Continue to write the grants.
There are nonprofits in Hancock County that could and would help with the writing of these grants.
The Ricks could have a gala fundraising event. We could hold it at the Ricks. The arts and theater community already knows that we have a jewel in this magnificent theater. We simply need to get more people in Hancock County aware of the many usages for it.
The old adage of getting the word out still holds true today.
I believe that theater manager Dave Scott, the tourism commission and the visitors bureau are showing to the innkeepers that when the Ricks is promoted, their bottom line will show it.
Thank you, Hancock County, for the Ricks. Thank you, Dave Scott. Thank you, visitor’s bureau, innkeepers and the tourism commission. Now, we need to move forward.
The stage has been set. A lot of hard work by all concerned has gone to preserving the Ricks. Let’s all make the Ricks a vital link in Hancock County economic development.
C.O. Montgomery of New Palestine is a former teacher, Sugar Creek Township trustee and co-director of the Hancock County Character Council. Send comments to dr-editorial@ greenfield reporter.com.