Historic State Theater officially reopens

Around 400 people packed the State Theater in downtown South Bend Thursday night for its official reopening.

To kick off its new life, the theater hosted the first 'Ignite Michiana' event. It featured more than a dozen residents giving 5-minute talks about how to carve out a better future for the city through innovative and sustainable projects.

They spoke about everything from South Bend's unique sewer system to backyard chickens, encouraging the audience to get involved.

"South Bend didn't close up shop when Studebaker's doors closed, life went on," said Ignite Michiana Organizer Willow Wetherall. "And, there's still some really fantastic things going on. Our future is not going to look the same as our past."

Wetherall says the event was designed to make residents think about South Bend differently and introduce them to a side of the city they may not have experienced.

As presenters detailed current projects, the excitement and enthusiasm among the sold-out crowd was evident through their posts on social media. Many said the event evoked a new energy that's needed to help propel South Bend forward.

Ignite Michiana is the first of many events planned for the newly-opened State Theater.

Over the next month, the venue will host everything from a Zumbathon to a Holi festival.

"We're doing a testing phase trying to figure out what works and what doesn't," said General Manager Drew Elegante.

While the theater is open, Elegante says there's still lots of work to be done so the building can reach its full potential.

He's started a crowd funding campaign with the hope of raising $50,000, which the building owner will match dollar-for-dollar.

The theater reached its first fundraising goal during Ignite Michiana, when a man donated the remaining $1,300 needed to fix the State's well-known marquee.

"I think it's a point of pride for the community," Elegante said. "It's such a focal point of downtown."

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