Al. Ringling Theatre Friends: Announce successful completion of Jeffris challenge

Contacts: Brian or Beth at 608-356-8864 or [email protected]

Baraboo, WI – In only one year since the Jeffris Family Foundation offered a challenge grant to the Al. Ringling Theatre Friends (ART), the organization announced today it has met the foundation’s match. In June of 2013, the Jeffris Family Foundation generously offered a grant of $513,333 for theatre restoration work, if ART Friends could raise $1,026,667 from additional donations within three years. Thanks to a group of outstanding volunteers and a community of active and enthusiastic supporters, that challenge has been met in just one year. As of June 30, 2014, the restoration campaign has raised $1,039,672. With the successful completion of the Jeffris challenge, ART Friends is halfway toward a full restoration of the historic Al. Ringling Theatre. The next phase of fundraising is beginning immediately, and the goal of a complete theatre restoration is within reach.

ART Friends President Charlene Flygt said, “this has been a challenging and rewarding process, and we could not have done it without some truly wonderful supporters in the community.” Echoing those thoughts, Executive Director Brian Heller said, “we are fortunate to have received a prestigious Jeffris challenge grant, and the response from our volunteers and supporters has been so gratifying. We are so excited to be so much closer to fully restoring the theatre for the upcoming centennial.”

The current phase of the theatre restoration includes building infrastructure and beginning interior decorative finishes. There are still portions of the roof that need replacement, and some exterior masonry work to be done. The theatre’s heating and air conditioning has not been modified since 1936, and needs upgrades. The building’s electrical system also includes some original wiring that needs to be replaced. The more visible portions of work in this phase will include complete refurbishment of the horseshoe lobbies and ladies lounge. Completion of the theatre interior finishes and new seats will be part of the final phase.

The Al. Ringling Theatre opened its doors on November 17, 1915 and quickly became known as “America’s Prettiest Playhouse.” Designed by the architectural firm Rapp & Rapp (Chicago, IL), the theatre is among the oldest continuously operating movie palaces in the United States. In recognition of its historical significance, the Al. Ringling Theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and was formally recognized as a Sauk County Historic Site in 2000.

The Jeffris Family Foundation is well known throughout Wisconsin for their many years of support to significant historic preservation projects in the state; they are now providing this support in seven additional states in the Midwest. Some of the projects that have flourished through grants from the Foundation include Villa Louis, Fairlawn, the Mabel Tainter Theater, the Fish Car at the Mid Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom, and the Stoughton Opera House.

The foundation serves small communities in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri. Established in 1979 by retired Parker Pen CEO Bruce Jeffris, his wife Eleanor, and their son Tom, the foundation has a mission to preserve the cultural history and heritage of the Midwest through the preservation of regionally and nationally important historic buildings and decorative arts projects. Grants from the foundation are accompanied by requirements for local fundraising and the use of qualified professionals to conduct sensitive historic preservation and restoration work. Tom Jeffris describes the foundation’s mission and purpose: “I have witnessed many small organizations and local governments in Wisconsin that struggle to support and preserve historic buildings that have given their communities a sense of place. The Jeffris Family Foundation has a commitment to assist dedicated communities with funding opportunities designed to preserve their architectural heritage for future generations.”

For further information on the history of the Al. Ringling Theatre, the naming opportunities for major gifts and how to make a contribution, please call (608) 356 – 8864, email [email protected] or visit