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Lindsay Community Theater finishes replacing marquee lights

Lindsay Community Theater finishes replacing marquee lights

Lindsay Community Theater finishes replacing the lights in its marquee after two-and-a-half years of toil

By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN

LINDSAY – A two-and-a-half-year tribulation to fix a Lindsay landmark finally came to a brilliant ending last week. 

A small group of theater board members, community players, and theater management gathered in front of the Lindsay Community Theater (LCT) at the corner of Samoa and Elmwood avenues on Saturday night to flip the switch on the historic theater’s neon marquee sign. The sign was repaired by theater manager Jim Kliegl and theater enthusiast Jan Owens, with the help of two local businesses. 

“It’s a wonderful experience and I’m very pleased with the end product,” said Kliegl, who has been the LCT’s manager for the last decade. “I’m glad we did it and I’m glad it’s over.”

The repair process took the pair of LCT stage alumni just two months to complete but the saga of bringing the marquee back to life goes back two and a half years.

In February 2017, vandals broke the neon on the bottom of the marquee. The next month, Kliegl called Fresno Neon, the company that had repaired the neon before, only to find they would no longer do repairs on old buildings, only installations on new buildings. It took LCT another two months to find a new company to repair the sign. Bakersfield Neon visited the site in May 2017 and suggested they could purchase LED neon rope lights for $6,500 and repair the marquee for another $3,000. LCT contracted with the company to replace the neon and paid $3,500 as a down payment. Between May and June that year, the company accomplished little work before asking for an additional $2,000 to purchase the remaining LED rope lights. Kliegl said LCT again paid the money but work on the lights went dark. 

“Then they just disappeared,” Kliegl said. “We waited and waited and tried to contact them to no avail.”

Kliegl called the state licensing board and found the Bakersfield Neon had a license to sell the lights but not to install them. 

“We filed a complaint with the Bakersfield district attorney,” Kliegl said, “and as of this date, they have not been found.”

After a year of being without a marquee, LCT contacted Victory Signs, also out of Bakersfield, in February 2018. After checking their license, Kliegl said LCT agreed to contract with the company for $8,500 for the entire cost of the project and agreed to provide a $3,000 down payment for the work. Victory Signs made slow progress and that summer complained that the trade war with China was preventing them from getting the lights they needed. 

“It was the same waiting game all over again,” Kliegl said. 

In January, Kliegl said he received an email from the company’s owner saying that he was closing his business due to illness and would not be able to finish the job. Kliegl said when he asked the Victory Signs for a refund, the owner said he had already spent $3,000 on the job. 

“I doubted that, and so I asked him for an itemized statement as to where the money was spent,” Kliegl said. “I am still waiting for a response and his phone number is no longer in service.”

This March, Kliegl went back to Fresno Neon to ask if they could install the rope lights. The company said they could do it, but it would cost $120,000. Fed up with being strung along and priced out of the project, Kliegl and the LCT board decided to investigate doing the job themselves. In April 2019, LCT found a company in Bozeman, Mont. called Birddog Lighting who had the cheapest prices on the LED rope lights needed to complete the project. The lights arrived within the month and Kliegl and Owens began the work of putting up the lights. The voltage was lower (110 volt) than the neon (220 volt), most of the work was tedious but not too dangerous, and they had a three-month window to complete the project.

“I watched a YouTube video and thought to myself, ‘This isn’t that tough,’” Kliegl said.

Lindsay contractor Julian Cadena, who was remodeling a building across the street, lent the LCT a scaffold to reach the lower level lights at a height of 14 feet so that Kliegl and Owens didn’t have to do the overhead work from a ladder. 

The real challenge, Kliegl said, was reaching the 45-foot tall blade of the sign. Jim Shropshire, owner of Shropshire Container, offered to provide his lift for free as long as he ran it for liability reasons. When his scheduled did not allow him to volunteer his time to operate the lift, Shropshire decided to pay the $1,450 cost for LCT to rent the lift from BSE Rents in Visalia. On July 29, the lift was delivered and Owens and Kliegl began the harrowing task of installing the lights on the blade. Both had to overcome their fear of heights to get the job done, but they did it. 

“The cost was really minimal thanks to the donations from the businesses,” Kliegl said.

In all, the latest installment of the project only cost $7,000 and was completed in time for LCT’s first event, a murder mystery theater dinner called “Holly Howard Is No More” on Saturday, Sept. 28. Kliegl said the brighter LED lights will be a huge addition to the theater’s 2019-20 season which will include “Evil Dead: The Musical” in October, The Nutcracker in December, Newsies in January, as well as a Simon and Garfunkel tribute band in October, and Elvis impersonator in November. 

Thanks to the dedicated theater leaders, the project ultimately cost $15,500 (including the $8,500 spent on previous contracts), just under 13% of its most recent quote, will save 95% on electricity to light the LEDs compared to traditional neon, and finished a month before the opening of its 2019-20 theater season. 

“This will be a great saving to the theater in years to come,” Kliegl said.

Those who wish to help us pay for the new lights on the marquee can send their donations to Lindsay Community Theater, PO Box 986, Lindsay, CA 93247.

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