BLACKFOOT — Another big show is coming up at the Blackfoot Performing Arts Center this weekend. It’s another chance to show off a source of pride for Blackfoot.
To anyone coming to a town the size of Blackfoot and seeing BPAC for the first time, either as a performer or an audience member, the facility quickly comes to be seen as a jewel in the Gem State.
The next show on the BPAC schedule is this Saturday with the a capella vocal band Six Appeal performing, with doors opening at 7 p.m. and the show starting at 7:30. Tickets are $20, $15, and $10.
Six Appeal has the ability to show off the facility’s acoustic quality, capable of performing a variety of popular songs, from the Doobie Brothers to the Jackson 5 to Chaka Khan, with no instrumentation other than vocals.
Former Blackfoot High School choir director Susan Mann, BPAC’s programming director, has been the driving force behind the 1,223-seat facility since the days when it could only be seen with the mind’s eye, also getting a push from former band director Allen Tripp.
And now, between Mann and full-time facility manager Johnathan Ness, it has become — in Mann’s words — “a busy place all the time,” and for good reason.
“Entertainers rave about it,” Mann said. “As for the audience, we have line array speakers, and I’ve had people tell me they’re amazed that they can hear just as well sitting toward the back as they can the front. There’s not a bad seat in the house.”
She rates it among the top 10 percent of auditoriums among public schools nationwide.
Mann said the inspiration for the center came from a conference she attended in Washington, D.C., where it was advised that a 10-year plan for such a facility was needed.
She said she started talking to students after that about fundraising, admitting to them that they wouldn’t be able to perform in it themselves, but their children would.
So a fundraising effort was launched. Seed money in the amount of $25,000 helped, but students still continued efforts such as selling candy and car washes. A year or two later, the Blackfoot School District formed a committee to see about passing a bond issue to build a new auditorium.
“People knew there was a need for an auditorium,” Mann said. “It was pretty tough to schedule anything in the gym as far as performances.”
A $7.5 million bond issue was passed to build the center on March 22, 2002, with 70 percent approval.
Blackfoot had its money to build a jewel. It took about three years to construct.
“What I said would take 10 years took five years instead,” Mann said.
Well-known performers such as Jeremy Camp and David Archuleta as well as comedian Brian Regan have performed there, along with groups lesser known to this area but still world-renowned such as the California Guitar Trio and a recent performance by the Villalobos Brothers.
“Everything we bring in, I don’t book unless I’ve seen them myself in some way,” Mann said. An 11-member advisory board meets monthly to give direction on programming as well, and the board makes the final choice on performers.
BPAC schedules six to seven shows in a concert season, along with five rentals. An LDS production “Savior of the World” is scheduled June 20-24. The Glenn Miller Band is on tap Sept. 21.
Concert seasons run from September through May, with shows featuring the 180-voice BYU Men’s Chorus and a Christmas show featuring Lightwire Theater in the works next season. There are backstage shows that seat 200 on the stage, with the bluegrass group Otter Creek coming back for a third time and the country group Danika and the Jeb from Nashville also planned.
The community is also going to be doing a 10-day performance of “Annie Get Your Gun.”
Keeping the center going takes a lot of work with money coming in from grants.
“I’ve written a lot of grants to do things like building signs in the community and paying for a $20,000 upgrade for the lighting system,” Mann said.
She said one thing that’s been unique about the facility has been the district’s commitment to hiring a full-time manager such as Ness.
“It makes such a difference having a full-time manager here,” Mann added. “It helps keep the facility maintained and our equipment in good shape. I wanted to make it so the community would use it.”
Mann thinks back on the days when such a thing as a new performing arts center was just a dream and smiles at the thought of what it’s turned into.
“I’m really proud of it,” she said. “I’m proud of how much it’s used, how much it’s taken care of. The community support has been tremendous. It’s a sense of pride for Blackfoot.”