The Tassel at 20: Inspiring Youth, Attracting Visitors and Spurring Growth

Thursday, September 20, 2018

This fall, the Tassel Performing Arts Center kicked off its 20th season of bringing song, dance, music and big-city cultural entertainment to Phelps County.

The dream for the Tassel started deep in Holdrege’s history as the small city became known for its ability to draw big-name acts like Will Rogers and Boston Pops to the former downtown opera house and the city auditorium.

“Holdrege and Phelps County area residents historically have been appreciative of the arts, both visually and the performing arts,” said Bruce Hendrickson, who led efforts to raise money to build the Tassel. “A profound interest in the arts is one of the keys to a well-rounded culture and quality of life in the community.”

It became a dream of many Holdrege residents to build a performing arts center with outstanding acoustics, comfortable seats and back-stage accommodations for the artists.

From 1976 to 1999, committed residents worked together to raise $4.1 million to build the Tassel. The effort was boosted by donations from the Phelps County Community Foundation.

“Believing in the project and making it happen takes people,” Bruce said. “We had people who were committed to wanting the facility and were willing to do what they could to make it happen.”

The Tassel opened its doors in October 1999. Over the years, the Tassel has hosted orchestras, ballets, pianists, acrobats, Branson shows, magicians and musicals.

This year’s 20th anniversary season features nine shows including traditional acts like pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin and contemporary shows like The Second City comedy show that will no doubt delight local residents and attract visitors.

But, Bruce said perhaps the biggest benefit of the performing arts center has been its inspiration to our youth.

“First and foremost in my mind are the advantages that the school children have - of all ages - to either perform on the stage or to be in an audience and be the recipients of observing and seeing talented people perform,” Bruce said. “It develops a broader appreciation of things in their lives. Who knows, for some, they might have a profession or vocation in the arts.”

Former HHS student Jarod Cernousek is one of those students. Jarod was born just five months before the Tassel opened. He grew up just a few blocks from the Tassel and remembers his first performance on the Tassel stage when he participated in a local YMCA drama class.

“Over the course of my high school career I spent quite a bit of time onstage at the Tassel,” Jarod said. “Whether it be acting in one act play, spring musical, singing in concert choir, Gold Dust Show Choir, or playing trumpet in band. I've kind of grown up performing on that stage. From being in my first high school play production as a freshman, to starring as leads my junior and senior year.”

Jarod played a lead role of Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls,” Ichabad Crane in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and the Fairy Godfather in “Cinderella and the Fairy Godfather’s Spell.”

He also learned from opportunities to help back stage with Tassel performers, such as the recent REZA illusionist. And, he performed an opening act for another local student performer, Magician Chase Hasty.

While Jarod spent quite a lot of time on stage, he also enjoyed sitting in the audience enjoying many shows and concerts.

“We're really lucky to have such a professional venue that brings high-quality talent to our town,” Jarod said. “As a student after you are in one act or choir and have to travel to other schools to perform, you really see how fortunate we are. Without a doubt, I'd say Holdrege has one of the nicest performing arts spaces. I definitely think it's one of our town's biggest staples, so it was very cool to have access to that type of venue as a student all throughout high school.”

The Tassel stage even became a backdrop for Jarod’s senior pictures.

Jarod is now a freshmen at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and is pursuing a bachelor-of-arts degree in theater with a primary focus on acting and directing. He was already cast in UNO’s upcoming production of “The Secret Garden.”

Besides the benefits to young children, Bruce said the Tassel has been a tool to help recruit professionals to live and work in Holdrege. He has noticed this as he served on many recruiting committees for doctors, ministers and other professionals being recruiting to the area.

“It’s all because of the quality of life,” Bruce said. “The Tassel is one thing that fills what would otherwise be a void of good quality entertainment that’s kind of taken for granted in the cities, but it would be something that people coming from city life to a smaller community would really miss.”

New local physician Dr. Krista Stoecker said the availability of fine arts in town at the Tassel was one of the amenities that attracted her and her family to Holdrege.

Bruce said the Tassel also gives a tourism boost to the local economy.

“From an economic point of view, people who travel to Holdrege for a performance may have to buy gas, eat a meal or reserve lodging for the night,” Bruce said. “I’ve always tried to encourage restaurants to have a concert night special.”

And, of course, the Tassel has also continued to provide big-city entertainment options close to home for all area residents.

“The people of Holdrege and the entire area here benefit from the standpoint that economically, they can see good talents and not have to travel 150 miles to Lincoln or 215 miles to Omaha,” he said. “It’s so inexpensive to belong to The Tassel. I want to encourage people to buy season tickets to support the work of The Tassel.”

Season tickets are just $85 for adults and $30 for students.

The 2018-19 season opened with a Simon and Garfunkel Tribute and continues with musician and violinist Lindsay Deutsch and Friends on Oct. 4; Gary West For the Love of Cash, a tribute to Johnny Cash and the legends of Country Music on Oct. 26; pianist Charles Richard Hamelin on Nov. 13; The Alley Cats Doo-Wop Christmas Show on Dec. 6; The Second City comedy show on Jan. 20; International Guitar night on Feb. 16; Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra on March 9; Adonis Puentes and the Voice of Cuba Orchestra on April 6.

To purchase season tickets or any tickets, please visit thetassel.org.

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