A look behind the scenes of the century old Aledo Opera House

ALEDO, Ill. -

Aledo, Illinois might be best known for its Rhubarb Festival, but its unique history goes far beyond delicious pies.

It's hard to find anyone in the population of 3,500 who doesn't have a connection to the over century-old Aledo Opera House.


RaeAnn Latko is the granddaughter of current owner Richard Edwards Maynard.


The building was constructed in the late 1800s by Maynard's grandfather.  Once a stable and then a roller rink, it was converted to a theatre in 1904.


"It means a lot to the community, we have a Facebook page and a lot of people comment about how they had their first kiss here or first date," said RaeAnn Latko.


Despite its rich history, the theater closed in September of 2015. The Maynard family had no other choice.
"They stopped having 35 mm films and we couldn't afford to go digital so we couldn't get movies anymore," said Latko.


That's where Aledo native Dan Mellgren and his wife Michelle come into the picture.


After attending a movie with their kids just before it closed in 2015, they realized the building was something special.

So in December of 2016, they asked Maynard if they could run the opera house. The Mellgrens got permission and reopened it just in time to play old movies for the holidays.


They now use a smaller, more affordable projector. However, they want to raise enough money to buy the digital projector the Maynards couldn't afford in 2015.


Once they get the new projector, the Mellgrens plan to show new movies as well.


"Everyone you talk to has grown up coming to the theatre and watching movies," said Dan Mellgren. 

While it's just the beginning of the restoration process, together the Mellgrens and Maynards hope they can preserve a piece of Aledo history.

A gofundme account has been set up to help with the purchase of a new digital projector, if you'd like to help  go to:  www.gofundme.com/aledo-opera-house-digital-projector


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