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City of Somerset prepares to open historic downtown theater

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Published: May. 24, 2022 at 3:48 PM EDT
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SOMERSET, Ky. (WYMT) - The Virginia Theater in downtown Somerset sat empty for almost 30 years, and now city officials said it is almost ready to re-open as a live entertainment space.

“We’ve had a renaissance in downtown Somerset and I think this is a way like a lot of Kentucky to promote our best and our brightest,” said Somerset Mayor, Alan Keck. “You know, we just saw Noah Thompson win American Idol, we’re rich with beautiful musicians.”

The 100-year-old theater was built in 1922 and most recently was known as The Virginia Cinema. In 1994, the building was damaged in an ice storm and left to deteriorate.

Before that, it was an important part of town according to one life-long resident, Lee Beneke.

”We’d go there either Friday or Saturday night,” she said. “And he would, uh, save his, uh, lunch money to take me to The Virginia Theater.”

Mayor Keck believes this will further draw tourists to Somerset from across the region.

”Tourism is Kentucky’s third largest piece of the economy and we want to make sure that we’re capturing that, that we’re leveraging it,” he said. “I have no doubt that there will be folks coming off of Lake Cumberland, maybe even coming from Laurel Lake, to enjoy a show and we’re excited for that.”

Mayor Keck said the plan to create a live music venue fits the new downtown culture, and will make the building financially self-sustaining.

“Ever since The Virginia Cinema shut down, you know, folks talked about, ‘how are we going to get it back, how are we going to rebuild it,’” said Mayor Keck. “There’s a lot of people who kept the dream alive, worked for a lot of years to make sure that it didn’t die on a vine.”

The City of Somerset partnered with Pure Grain Presents, a locally-owned booking and event management group, to schedule a Summer of live music.

”It means everything,” said Tiffany Finley, a Partner with Pure Grain Presents. “I live just a block away from here. So, to have this space where we don’t have to go out of town to enjoy art and culture is just going to be a game changer for our community.”

”I’m really excited that we are getting The Virginia back and we can go in and relive old memories,” said Beneke.

Officials with Pure Grain Presents say the first show will be in July, but Mayor Keck said there will be an open house before that, on June 11.

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