Volunteering at Ye Olde Opera House has become a family tradition for the Strinmoen clan. One that began with Gary and Connie Strinmoen, then included sons, Corey and Chris (and his wife, Jessi), as well as grandchildren, Jackson and Jada.
Wilmington Township residents Gary and Connie began helping out at Ye Olde Opera House (YOOH) barn productions in 1982. Their job has always included directing folks to parking places, assisting handicapped individuals and elderly patrons, and giving rides to and from the barn on golf carts.
“We've parked every performance since then,” Gary said. “We've never missed one.
By carefully directing how cars are parked, it's a lot easier for theater goers to exit the grounds after the play. And Gary and Connie always wear their brightly-colored vests so that anybody who needs a hand can easily find them.
Getting to see the plays is a fringe benefit, Gary noted. But the couple is always on duty for patrons. That could include giving rides to the car for those who need it during intermission, for example.
“It's just fun,” Connie added. “The opera house is just such a great asset to the community.”
Both volunteers said YOOH does a lot more than entertain. Youngsters who get involved, both behind the scenes and on the stage, soon gain confidence and learn about responsibility.
“Both of our kids did this since they were little,” Connie said. “Chris learned about lighting while helping at YOOH and later used that at his work study in college. Corey also ended up using the things he learned at YOOH in his profession as well.”
“The Spring Grove community has so much to offer, the plays, the sports... and it all works together,” she added.
Gary said when he and his wife are on duty, YOOH often has two to three golf carts available to assist spectators. “We enjoy it,” he stated. “We get to see people that we already know and haven't seen for a while. And we meet so many others from all over the area. There are always people coming from Iowa, Wisconsin, and lots of places in Minnesota.”
“Some nights when we get to looking at license plates, we'll see people from as far away as Texas,” he added. “Just folks who might be here for a weekend who want to take in the play.”
Connie agreed. “One of the very best things about volunteering at YOOH is all the wonderful people that we get to meet,” she concluded.