By Kristen Miller
COKATO, DASSEL, MN The Performing Arts Center (PAC) is just one of several reasons Cokato and Dassel were recognized by Bloomberg Businessweek as the best places in Minnesota to raise kids in December.
In last week’s article, the emphasis was on the quality of the Dassel-Cokato School District.
This week’s article is an extension of that in how the community voted to support the arts in the creation of the PAC.
The PAC had been on the ballot three times in 1990, 1998, and 2002, when it passed by a narrow margin.
Craig Kay, former principal and superintendent at DC Schools, credits the school board, district leadership, and the community for helping make the PAC an important asset within the DC community.
“They the value of providing experiences [in conjunction with academics] and recognizing arts and athletics as being key to the education of the whole child,” Kay said.
Because of the PAC, the district has had opportunities to host fine arts competitions, and provide its students and their families with a comfortable and aesthetically-pleasing environment for concerts, award programs, baccalaureate, and parent meetings, according to Patty Kampa, facilities coordinator.
“We are constantly receiving comments from visiting schools on how lucky we are to have such a nice space for our students and community,” Kampa said.
Built in 2004, the PAC has been the stage for big-name acts such as the Minnesota Orchestra, Lorie Line, and Tonic Solfa. It also has provided a spacious and high-quality atmosphere for numerous school-related programs and activities.
“The acoustics are wonderful,” said Brian Veith, instrumental music instructor and PAC manager. “It’s an amazing room. There is not a bad seat in the house,” he added.
During the last academic year (2009-10), the PAC was used 3,071 hours for various school and community events, according to Veith.
Such school events have included high school and middle school assemblies, music concerts, athletic and fine arts banquets, fall musical, one-act play, and more.
Kjell Nordlie of Dassel and his wife, Elaine appreciate the comfortable setting that the PAC provides as they come to watch their grandchildren for various concerts throughout the year.
Concerts that once took place in packed elementary auditoriums, are better enjoyed in the spacious 800-seat PAC.
“[The PAC] has improved events a lot,” Kjell said. “It’s very enjoyable now to go to the grandkids’ school programs.”
The PAC is also available for use by the community and has offered such events as church services, fundraisers, dance recitals, and five seasons of DC Arts Association events.
The DC Arts Association is a nonprofit organization that was created when the PAC was built to support fine arts around the area and to bring quality entertainment to the community.
Currently in its sixth season, the DC Arts Association has already hosted Tangled Roots, a bluegrass band that featured the local band Salty Doggs as their opening act last October.
In December, the arts association hosted the O’Neill Brothers Holiday Show, featuring nationally-known pianists Tim and Ryan O’Neill, and internationally-renowned singer and harpist Katie McMahon.
With 567 in attendance, this show had great attendance, said Colleen Compton, DC Arts Association executive director. “We were very pleased with that,” Compton said, adding that they received many suggestions to invite them to come back.
Artists comment to Compton, who greets the guest performers, on the facility from the large lobby to the green room.
“Once they get on the stage and test the sound quality with a hand clap, their voice, or musical instrument, they are usually blown away by the acoustics in the auditorium,” Compton said.
The next DC Arts Association show coming to the PAC is Lake Wobegan Brass Band, Friday, March 4. The 30-member band first performed at the PAC in 2005, and provides a diverse program of marches, classical, quasi-jazz, and popular selections.
Also coming to the PAC in May is the Rhythmic Circus production of “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” a quartet of tap dancers teamed up with seven musicians.
Roger and Maribel Gilmer of Dassel are always one of the first ticket-buyers when it comes to shows at the Performing Arts Center.
Besides the quality of the performances and entertainers that come to the community, the Gilmers like the fact that quality entertainment is only a short drive away. Plus, they don’t have to pay for parking, which is an additional benefit, Maribel explained, adding the overall ticket prices are affordable for families.
Another benefit noted was the enhanced quality of sound that the PAC provides for various school concerts and performances, compared to other venues used in the past.