ELLSWORTH, Maine — Supporters of fashion, theater and the preservation of historic landmarks walked under the scaffolding adorning The Grand theater entryway Friday for the eighth annual “In Grand Style” fashion show fundraiser.
“This is our largest fundraiser of the year,” said The Grand Executive Director Zoe Alexis Scott. “You know, it’s a hoot. All the community gets involved.”
The show raised nearly $30,000 this year, matching the amount raised at last year’s show, according to Scott. All of the proceeds will go to the second phase of the restoration project, which will involve renovation of the art deco marquee over the theater entrance.
“It’s structurally OK, but there are details to re-create to make it look like it did in 1938,” Scott said. The theater was built in 1938 as the town’s new movie theater. On opening night, people crowded in to watch the feature film “Holiday,” starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.
“Community members donate to this because they know the money is going to create a historic landmark in Ellsworth,” Scott said.
The fashion show, which has been held at the Holiday Inn in the past, was moved to The Grand this year.
“It seems awfully appropriate to me to be in the place we’re doing this for,” said WLBZ TV weatherman Steve McKay as he took the stage as emcee.
The new venue featured a set designed by Tim McCormick. The Grand regulars Ben Layman and Rose Upton sang Broadway numbers to kick off the show, and Karen Dickes played the piano.
Sitting on the right side of the theater was a longtime patron of The Grand, Ginia Davis Wexler, 93, of Sullivan, who has rejoiced at the theater’s progress over the years.
“My husband [Morris Wexler] got together with a group of four or five businessmen in town to open this place up,” said Wexler. “He was very occupied with this because I was so interested in it all. I was a performer — a folk singer in 20 languages.
“I said, ‘We have to save this theater and do something about it.’ They were going to tear it down. It was an old movie theater. We saved it, and now it’s more beautiful than ever.”
They began organizing the show in May, gathering 37 models and 19 stores to participate.
“I think it was just a way to get the community involved in a community project,” said Scott. “It really is the whole community, some visitors, friends of The Grand, families.”
“It was very successful for the first time at The Grand,” said Jane Bradley, fashion show committee chair. “The food was outstanding from Big Cat’s Catering. We had extra models, we had three extra shops, and for once, an event was ahead of schedule.”
Chicken curry wraps, lobster rolls and vegetable wraps were packaged with fruit and pastries in green boxes tied with bows. Attendees carried their lunches and beverages to their seats and settled in for the show.
“We’ve never come before and we thought it would be a fun girls’ outing,” said Susan Bruce of Winter Harbor. “We support The Grand.”
“I like dresses,” said her granddaughter Vanessa Hasquarelli, 7, of New York City, whose favorite show is “Project Runway.”
Paula Kee, fashion show co-chair and fashion coordinator, placed the models in various locations about the theater so they could approach the stage from different angles. A model called in sick at the last minute, so Kee jumped into her place.
Outfits ranged from a rock-climbing outfit modeled by Sean Miller of Cadillac Mountain Sports in Bar Harbor to professional business attire modeled by Ellsworth City Manager Michelle Beal for Best Bib and Tucker in Bangor.
The models were just as diverse as the outfits. Rosen’s Department Store of Bucksport sent Chip Butterwick of Chippers Restaurant in Hancock on stage wearing a casual plaid shirt and Levi’s. Standing beside him in the spotlight was Brian Langley of the Lobster Pot Restaurant in Ellsworth, wearing a wool shirt and Carhartt pants.
“I’m a friend of Sara’s [of SaraSara’s in Blue Hill]. She snatched me off the street for the show,” said model Brenda Black of South Carolina who spends summers in Castine. “I had a great time. We were just laughing about it. I had to kick up my boots.”
Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, Kelco Industries and Machias Savings Bank sponsored the event, along with 36 additional Maine businesses.
The past two fashion shows funded the restoration of The Grand’s 40-foot tower, which will be complete by October.
In 1938, the tower was built out of vitrolite, a highly pigmented glass that has not been manufactured for 55 years. Pieces of the glass have broken and fallen off over the years.
Now, with the help Portland Glass, the tower is in the process of being reconstructed. The old glass has been stripped off, and new glass is being shipped from St. Louis.
“We’re working with Maine Historic Preservation Commission and a contractor here to replace broken and missing tiles and restore it with a newer material [spandrel glass],” said Scott. What this will mean to The Grand is that the tower will be restored to its 1938 magnificence. And it will be one of the few [of this kind of glass tower] left in New England.”
The restoration project is estimated to cost $110,000.
“When we are finished with this tower and marquee, we’re going to have a huge historical landmark that really does this theater justice,” said Dr. Charles Alexander, president of The Grand board of directors.
For information about theater performances and events, call The Grand box office at 667-9500. For information about The Grand’s history, visit www.grandonline.org/about-2.
This article has been updated to correct the town Sean Miller works in.