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Taking Venue 36 Back To Its Roots

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Big band hits will be featured at the Marshall County Canteen Big Band Swing and Dance Friday, April 8, at 6:30 p.m. at Venue 36, Marsville. The evening, sponsored by the Marshall County Arts Cooperative, pays tribute to USO shows that were popularized in the 1940s providing entertainment to members of the United States Armed Forces and their families.

The music for the Canteen will be provided by Presidio Brass, a quintet from San Diego, Calif.; the Canteen is the culmination of a three-day artist residency for the group.

The professional musicians will be joined by local musicians to provide the soundtrack for an evening of dancing. They will perform in a venue rich with local history.

“We are so excited to open back up and kick off this event with a big band,” said Allie Argo, one of the owners of Venue 36. “This building has so many stories and memories from its original years that all involve big bands – it’s just perfect!”

Originally called Teen Town Club 36, it opened in March 1948 as a skating rink. Fred and Effie Ott owned the building; their son, Mert, was the manager.

Several months later, the building’s use expanded to host dances. The inaugural dance was held June 11, 1948 with Bobby Mills and his Midwest’s Sweetest Band as the headlining band. Several weeks later, Jerry Mayburn and his orchestra performed on Friday, June 25; a few days later, on Monday, June 28, the club hosted another dance showcasing Buddy Rich, considered one of the most influential American drummers, and his orchestra.

The Otts operated the building for nearly ten years, hosting skating events and dances. In 1955 they sold the building to the local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans.

In 2021, Allie and Jared Argo purchased the building with Steve Moser and Mary Diederich. They are in the process of renovating the space. Once complete, they envision it being used for wedding receptions, fundraisers, bands and private parties.

Although the entire renovation will not be complete by the time the doors open for the Canteen April 8, significant improvements have been made. New windows have been installed, the wood ceiling has been exposed and a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system has been put in. The space now boasts new bathrooms and improvements have been made to the lighting in the ballroom.

“I’m looking forward to the Canteen being held in the newly renovated Venue 36 because, in years past, the VFWs were a place of camaraderie for our veterans and service members,” said Liberty Price-Obley, a board member for the arts cooperative. “They could go to the Canteen and share memories and let their hair down, so to speak. I think it’s fun to bring back this feeling with the music of the era at a place that holds so many rich memories for many service members in our community.”

Presidio Brass and members of the Marshall County Community Big Band, a division of the Marshall County Community Band, will provide the needed sound for the USO-style show. The bands will play jazz standards so dancers may ballroom dance on the venue’s large dance floor.

Leaders of the community band selected the songs for the dance gig. They put together a mix of up-tempo and moderate tunes, and made sure they had selections so dancers can waltz, cha-cha, samba and foxtrot.

The selections they are playing are considered a part of the Great American Songbook.

“This style of music has American roots, going back several decades,” said Meg Baker, one of the community band’s leaders. “It was part of the evolution of musical styles that eventually led to the pop and rock music we have today.”

The band will play songs like “Moon River,” written by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer for the 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Sing, Sing, Sing,” most famously recorded by Benny Goodman, a bandleader known as the King of Swing.

“We are planning on a mix of traditional big band tunes and some newer music,” Baker said. “We are playing tunes that the audience will recognize and that are danceable.”

The big band consists of eleven musicians: Meg Baker, Susan Friedrichs, Teresa Hammett, Ashley Maughlin, Clint Raines, saxophone; Steve Moser, trombone; Nathan Ottens and Bud Schuette, trumpet; Sterling Clark, piano; Felix Smalley, drums; and Sharon Meyer, bass.

The event begins at 6:30 p.m. with a performance by the Marshall County Community Band. At 7 p.m., local ballroom dancers will offer informal dance lessons. They will offer instruction on dances popular in the 1940s: rumba, foxtrot, swing and waltz.

Presidio Brass and the big band will play from 7:30 until 10 p.m. Throughout the evening, Presidio Brass will perform selections on their own.

People are encouraged to dress in period attire — something worn to a USO Show during World War II — or they should dress patriotic.

A limited number of tickets are available for the event. Tickets are $10. Veterans, active military and their spouses are admitted free to the event; however, they need to pick up a free ticket.

Free tickets may be picked up or tickets may be purchased at CJ Express East and West, Marysville; CJ Express, Frankfort; MSC Boutique, Waterville; Galloway, Wiegers and Brinegar, Marysville and Seneca.

Venue 36 will have drinks and snacks available for purchase.

“We will have a well-stocked bar and some specialty cocktails,” Argo said. “We’ll have Shirley Temples and Roy Rogers for the kids!”

In addition to performing at the Canteen, the ensemble will play well-known songs from Broadway at a free concert, “… And All That Brass!,” Thursday, April 7, at 7 p.m. in the Friends of Vermillion Community Center, 106 West 3rd Street.

For more information people may call the arts cooperative at 785-859-4260.

Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttps://sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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