Elgin casino plans only one outdoor concert, expands shows

  • Dixie Longate, played by Kris Andersson, tells funny stories in "Dixie's Tupperware Party" March 9 and 10 at Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin.

    Dixie Longate, played by Kris Andersson, tells funny stories in "Dixie's Tupperware Party" March 9 and 10 at Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin. Courtesy of BRADFORD RoGNE

 
 
Updated 3/1/2018 8:04 AM

Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin is dramatically scaling back on outdoor concerts at Festival Park, but it is adding indoor shows and free concerts in the pavilion.

The casino has planned only one concert July 4 featuring The Commodores and Kool & the Gang, said Marilou Pilman, interim director of marketing. The casino offered as many as six concerts per year after they started in 2013; there were four last year.

 

The high production costs -- including renting and setting up a stage, concession stands, restrooms and fencing -- rendered unprofitable most of the outdoor concerts that started in 2013, Pilman said. The casino hired an architect in 2015 to look into building a permanent stage at Festival Park and was looking into possible sources of state funding. Pilman declined to answer questions about the status of those plans and whether they have been abandoned.

Officials over the years had informal conversations about whether the city could contribute money to building a permanent stage, which might cost $10 million to $12 million.

Councilman Terry Gavin said he's disappointed there will be only one concert, because such events bring thousands downtown. As for spending city money on a band shell, "we don't have the money for this," he said, pointing out there would be maintenance expenses.

There will be free concerts in the pavilion lobby throughout the year, including a dueling piano show on St. Patrick's Day.

"With these pavilion shows, we hope to attract new and varied audiences as well as provide our core customers with new and exciting forms of entertainment," Pilman said.

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The casino's upcoming indoor show is the off-Broadway "Dixie's Tupperware Party" March 9 and 10. The show, in its 10th season, features Dixie Longate, a fast-talking, bawdy Southern belle played in drag by Kris Andersson.

Andersson -- in character as Dixie -- Wednesday explained her career started when her parole officer told her she needed to get a job or go back to prison. The officer also happened to have a bowl in her office. "Oh my Lord, I didn't know Tupperware could be so pretty," Dixie recalled.

Since then, she's happily traveled the country for more than 1,100 shows in which she tells funny Tupperware tales and encourages "alternative uses" strictly for the 21-and-older crowd.

"I'm not just sitting there going, 'Hey, this is a bowl.' Everyone knows what a bowl is," Dixie said. "People want to have a good time and giggle."

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