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posted: 2/14/2010 12:01 AM

Onesti continuing great tradition of Arcada Theater

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  • Ron Onesti has made the Arcada Theater in downtown St. Charles a fun place to be.

      Ron Onesti has made the Arcada Theater in downtown St. Charles a fun place to be.
    Courtesy of Onesti entertainment corp.


Five years ago, Ron Onesti had a feeling he could walk on water as the savior of the Arcada Theater in downtown St. Charles.

"So many people came up to me that first year when we saved the theater from closing and thanked me, and congratulated me," Onesti recalls. "I figured I could go on stage at the Arcada with a banjo, and I'd sell the place out."

But it wasn't that easy for the prolific entertainment promoter, whose previous experience and success formulas didn't work at first in St. Charles.

"I had these great expectations and was bringing in some great acts ... and nobody came," Onesti said. "I think people still had it in their mind that it was an old theater that was just showing second-run movies. It was really hard at first, but we have stuck with it."

Today, Onesti has created a link between his theater and his Italian supper club at the site of the historic Old Church Inn on the city's west side.

He'd love to see his restaurant packed tonight for Valentine's Day, but he has as much or more focus on future entertainment offerings - and the legacy of the theater and the restaurant.

"It was a learning experience for me, because the Arcada was viewed as a 'cold' building and we have worked hard to make it a living, breathing entity," said Onesti, whose entertainment corporation books acts for various events throughout the region. "I want to bring people back to a better time and take them away from their troubles and worries for two hours.

"If they are still thinking about their bills, jobs, the economy, President Obama, or whatever, during our shows, then I am not doing my job well."

Onesti said his first two years were tough, and then he had an outstanding year before the economy went south. But he has stuck with a simple rule-of-thumb when considering acts at his theater or restaurant.

"I want to create events that I would buy tickets to myself," Onesti said. "And I am hard to impress."

He will announce some renovations at the theater soon, but admits his original vision of being a conquering hero and wildly successful "was a fantasy."

Now, he said, he wants to foster the legacy of the theater, accommodate community interaction and provide future generations with the same joy their parents and grandparents had at the Arcada.

"When I am at the theater, I feel like I have stepped into 'It's a Wonderful Life' and that's how I want it for everyone."

In next Sunday's column, I'll touch on the feedback Onesti has been receiving about the Arcada's place in St. Charles history, as well as what goes into booking acts at the theater.

Not quite finished: When Kurt Wehrmeister recently got his last hurrah as the public address announcer at Geneva High School with a standing ovation at the school's Hall of Fame night, it didn't quite equate to his absolute final farewell after 35 years of calling basketball and football games.

Geneva basketball coach Phil Ralston made an excellent gesture in asking the folks at the United Center if Kurt could call the Vikings game in Chicago next Saturday against Kaneland.

It took the cooperation of Kaneland as well, because the special day at the UC is really Kaneland's home game.

Plus, Geneva won't lose touch with its premiere announcer because Kurt has agreed to work a Geneva game during the 4A regional tournament and he has offered to work the Hall of Fame night each year if needed.

Otherwise, his intention remains the same: To let someone else have the fun of announcing games.

Phones they can use: Kids make fun of their grandparents when they fumble around with modern technology, whether it's a DVD player or a cell phone.

Wouldn't it be nice if the elderly could at least be equipped with a cell phone that would dial 911 in an emergency with just a push of a button?

With the support of Advantax Group, LLC of St. Charles, some Geneva High School students helped TRIAD of Central Kane County pursue that idea. They collected old cell phones donated by Advantax and deprogrammed them so they could be reloaded with a 911 emergency response program.

TRIAD has long been involved in keeping elderly people safe, whether through crime prevention, health or safety tips and programs. Advantax, a property tax service organization, had the spare cell phones and TRIAD had the student helpers, so it made a perfect combination to do something positive for the area's senior citizens.

The name TRIAD stands for "group of three" and refers to the organizations that originally formed the initiative to keep senior citizens safe - the National Sheriff's Association, the International Association of the Chiefs of Police, and AARP.

Tough for novelties: I often wondered how the Mr. Kitschy novelties store at 313 W. State St. in Geneva would hold up in a terrible economy.

It was a great store to visit, and I went in many times. I just didn't walk out with many purchases, other than some Laurel and Hardy figurines, and a small plastic Ralph Kramden figure.

The store was more of a museum and walk down memory lane, and it probably had the same feel for many others. Thus, the store has its "store closing sale" signs up on its windows.

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