‘I knew I had to come and do a show here’: St. Charles native returns to perform at Moonlight Theatre

A stroll through downtown St. Charles last summer with his friend Keith Orland brought back plenty of childhood memories for professional magician Terry Evanswood.

It also was an educational excursion for Evanswood, a popular magician in St. Charles when perfecting his craft as a teen and young adult, who has been a member of various national and international magician organizations and a performer near his home in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., for more than 25 years.

During his walk with Orland, he came across the Moonlight Theatre for the first time.

“When we went around the corner (at Second Avenue), I saw the theater and thought, what is this?” said Evanswood, a 1988 graduate of St. Charles High School who got the “bug” early when buying his first magic kits at Fisher’s Novelty store in St. Charles before he was 10 years old.

“I could not believe that I lived in St. Charles my entire life, was in show business, and had never heard of this vaudeville theater, the city’s very first theater,” he added.

“I knew I had to come home and do a show here,” the 53-year-old Evanswood explained. “It was a no-brainer.”

Recently restored and reopened, Moonlight Theatre has the intimate setting (about 140 capacity) he looks for when staging an “Evening with Evanswood” show.

A smaller theater provides an opportunity for audience interaction similar to the vaudeville era, something he can’t always do when performing in a larger setting with more assistants and props.

When his father, Bob Hoge, was in downtown St. Charles one night, he stopped in at Moonlight and let owners Joe Mennella and Nancy Fioramonti-Mennella know of Terry’s interest in coming home to do a show. After all, Evanswood hadn’t performed in his hometown since 2012 at the Arcada Theatre.

The result was booking four shows at Moonlight — Saturday, Jan. 27, two shows Sunday, Jan. 28, and one at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 29. The first three shows sold out quickly, and the fourth on Jan. 29 was added last week. If tickets are available, they can be purchased at

Evanswood is nearing his 10,000th stage show in Pigeon Forge — but St. Charles shows have a firm place in his heart because many local residents have followed his “magic” ride that started 45 years ago.

When his dad took him to one of the professional magician Harry Blackstone Jr. shows in Chicago, the young Terry Hoge was hooked. His interest and skill level took off from doing birthday parties, special events and festivals to appearing on the Bozo Show in front of a nationwide TV audience in 1986 as a sophomore in high school.

Before that show, he changed his stage name to Terry Evanswood, partly for sentimental reasons. He caught his school bus for years at the intersection of Dean Street and Evanswood Lane.

Before last week, I spoke to Evanswood about 13 years ago. Oddly enough, he was on the ground, looking at the bottom of a 3-ton boulder at North Cemetery in St. Charles.

  In this file photo from 2010, Terry Evanswood looks over a plaque on the large rock in the North Cemetery marking the grave of Maro, a St. Charles magician from 100 years ago. Brian Hill/, 2010

That boulder marked the gravesite of Edward Maro, a famous St. Charles magician from the early 1900s known as "The Great Maro."

Evanswood returned to St. Charles because he was obsessed with the story of Maro, a fellow whom he portrayed in 1993 for one of the Dunham Hunt Museum cemetery walks.

He became aware of Maro's request for a boulder from his childhood to mark his St. Charles grave. Evanswood wanted to be sure the site showed a plaque on the boulder marking Great Maro's resting place.

Over time, Evanswood surmised, either workers or vandals had somehow tipped over the boulder. Sure enough, the plaque was on the underside, and with construction equipment from his brother Mike's company, the boulder was set right.

The Great Maro popped into Evanswood's mind when he walked into the Moonlight Theatre.

"I believe 100 percent that Maro would have performed there, and I am going to bring up that story," he said.

The Moonlight has brought music and theater back to life at what was once the Idle Hour Theater in the early 1900s at 7 S. Second Ave. It was the place for early vaudeville and music from local and traveling acts before the Norris family built the Arcada Theatre in 1926.

Idle Hour was a 325-seat auditorium in those days, welcoming the likes of John Phillip Sousa and his orchestra with packed houses. Historical accounts about the theater note "Road to Mandalay," starring Lon Chaney, as the last film shown there before its closing in 1926.

With that background, Evanswood's shows will combine magical entertainment and St. Charles history. Sort of like "The Great Maro."

That notion is not lost on Evanswood.

"I've been very busy preparing, and this is just a wonderful, rare opportunity to see friends and family and, while I am at it, to perform in the historic, first theater in town," he said.

A blow to sweet tooth

It wasn’t the news I wanted to hear during the holidays, but Hahn’s Bakery in Geneva, in operation since 2002, was closing its retail location at 303 Franklin St.

I bought the bakery’s coffee cake, brownies and rolls more often at the Geneva farmer’s market, making it less of a crushing blow because the Hahn family announced it would continue selling at local markets from April through November. They would also participate in other community events, possibly through online, delivery and pop-up storefronts.

This isn’t a sad story for Hahn’s, other than the family may not see the faces of the loyal customers as readily. This was about a successful operation needing to grow its wholesale business and create an online retail option with nationwide reach.

You can keep tabs on Hahn’s through social media and its website at

Barbershop takes a hit

Barbara Olson was hoping Christmas Walk revelers in Geneva would again take notice of the historic City Barbershop she reopened three years ago at 281 W. State St.

It’s always a good time to show off one of the oldest businesses in Geneva, a small barbershop that opened around 1920. But you need to do that with a storefront window.

It wasn’t to be this holiday season. Instead, those who walked by the shop saw only festive holiday green paper and red bows covering the window, along with a note from Olson offering a free haircut to anyone who could tell her who drove their car into the shop window.

“It happened the Sunday after Thanksgiving and there was some snow and ice, and someone somehow went over the curb and into my window,” Olson said. “Luckily, they missed the 100-year-old barber pole.”

Olson didn’t get much more than a few chuckles from patrons in terms of responding to her offer of a free haircut for info on the culprit.

She knew it would be more likely for police to possibly figure it out — or maybe determine if a nearby security camera caught anything.

Last week, Olson said she was hoping to have the window soon replaced — as close as possible to a replica of the original window — through Geneva Glass Works.

Farewell to a real TV shop

I asked Gene Olmstead of Olmstead’s TV in Batavia a couple of months ago if he would eventually turn over his store to a son or sell it to someone else.

When he decided to retire, he said, the shop would close. We’ve reached that time, as Gene has retired and Batavia has said goodbye to one of the last small-town TV shops.

This guy was my “TV Whisperer,” helping me get through the digital TV conversion years ago and later into equipment that allows me to record from the antenna in my attic, improve the picture with a signal booster and eventually add streaming services. I never did subscribe to a cable TV service.

He always knew what to do if something wasn’t working for any number of reasons. Much like his father before him, Gene did that for hundreds, if not thousands, of other customers at 221 W. Wilson St.

As the sign on the store window and the Olmstead’s TV website states, the family was thanking “you, your parents, your grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents for 77 great years (of business).”

A street plaza celebration

The word spread quickly through First Street Development LLC marketing fliers in late 2006 and early 2007 as St. Charles began implementing its vision for a major First Street makeover.

No one knew then that the project would face quite a few bumps through a terrible economy and some hits and misses with the overall concept.

But here we are in 2024, and St. Charles is ready to celebrate one of the project’s final phases — the grand opening of the First Street Plaza at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24.

The artist’s renderings may have changed since 2007, but the plaza portion along Main Street at First was always considered an important part of the overall project.

City planners have viewed this plaza as a central location for entertainment, city festivals and holiday celebrations. In the summer, it will also enhance the outdoor dining offerings of downtown St. Charles.

Mostly, it’s been a long haul to get First Street to the place first envisioned in marketing fliers. That time is finally here.

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