U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson speaks at State Theater

BARNESVILLE — U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson spoke at a VIP event Tuesday at the State Theater.

Johnson, R-Ohio, said he has seen other historic theaters across the state undergo renovations similar to the State Theater project.

“Our Appalachia, from Youngstown to Cincinnati, there’s been probably about a dozen or so of them, and I’ve seen some of them come to fruition. You guys are making a lot of progress,” he said to the volunteers spearheading the Barnesville effort.

He said that out of all of the theater projects he has seen, no others made so much progress in about a year’s time.

“Clearly, you guys are on it. You’ve got a vision, and I’ve seen what it’ll do to transform a community,” he said.

Johnson encouraged members of the Barnesville State Theater Company to continue their hard work.

“Just stay at it, and any way that I can be helpful, please let me know. I’ll be happy to try and do that,” he said.

Johnson joked that he plans to perform at the theater.

“I’m a singer and an actor, and my wife is a dancer, so we can figure something out. I’ll sing and she can dance around me or something,” he quipped.

Belmont County Commissioners Jerry Echemann and Josh Meyer also attended the event.

“I was up here last fall during the Pumpkin Festival, and it’s amazing to be here now and see what it’s become. All the hard work and effort that they put into this has been tremendous. It will be a great asset to the community and to the county. A lot of people have worked on this, and it’s nice to see folks come together and work together on this,” Meyer said.

Larry Merry, Belmont County Port Authority director, said that the project is coming along nicely and he hopes the Barnesville State Theater Company gets the funding it needs for completion.

Other community members in attendance included Dave Phillips, CEO of WVU Medicine Barnesville Hospital, Mayor Dale Bunting, Executive Director of Belmont County Tourism Jackee Pugh and Jan Chambers, director of Outreach and Development at Ohio Hills Health Centers.

Kathy Batts, chairperson for the Barnesville State Theater Company Events Committee and director for the theater, said she appreciated the great turnout for the event.

“I think we expected it, but it was still a surprise, and the fact that people are very, very interested in the project. I think that everybody here is showing great support,” she said.

Batts said the Barnesville State Theater Company plans to hold similar events throughout the duration of the project.

“We’ll probably do these things often, trying to drum up interest and keep it in the forefront of people’s minds,” she said.

For more information about the theater, visit barnesvillest.org or go to the Barnesville State Theater Company Facebook page.

The theater will be open for tours during the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival from Sept. 21-24.

The Barnesville State Theater Company is a nonprofit organization. From July 2022 to August 2023, the organization has raised a total of $206,497.98 in funding. They have raised $25,350.25 from events and $3,000 from its recent yard sale. The organization has received $9,785 from memorial donations and $168,362.73 from other personal donations. The organization has also applied for a grant through the Ohio Arts Council.

The public can also attend the organization’s monthly meetings usually held at 5 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month. The location for the meetings varies, so those who wish to attend should visit barnesvillest.org or the Barnesville State Theater Company Facebook page for more details. The minutes of the meetings can also be found on the organization’s website.


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