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Folk Harbour Society asks for help to save Lunenburg Opera House

Folk Harbour Society president Harold Pearse stands outside the Lunenburg Opera House. The society has started a GoFundMe campaign to cover the $330,000 mortgage on the building.
Folk Harbour Society president Harold Pearse stands outside the Lunenburg Opera House. The society has started a GoFundMe campaign to cover the $330,000 mortgage on the building. - Josh Healey

‘You only have so much time’

When the Folk Harbour Society purchased the Lunenburg Opera House, president Harold Pearse noted the move as both a risk and an opportunity.

And now, a few months later, the society is asking the community to help save the opera house.

Dana Allen, the society’s publicity chair, said board members decided to risk purchasing the property and are now exploring options to cover the $330,000 mortgage on the building.

“We felt it was the right thing to do,” Allen told the South Shore Breaker. “We’d been trying for a while to find a big donor to help us purchase the property.”

That donor came in the form of the U.S.-based Fordi Family Foundation, which covered 60 per cent of the building’s $733,000 price tag. The final sale price represented a significant drop from the $2.25 million it was listed at back in 2017.

But now, the society needs help.

Allen said that as a not-for-profit organization, the mortgage is a significant hurdle given that only one of the opera house’s three floors are currently usable. Ticket sales from the iconic Folk Harbour Festival cover only half of the society’s usual annual expenses.

“Everyone in town seems to think we’ve saved the opera house. We’ve purchased, yes. We now have it,” said Allen. “In reality, we do risk losing the opera house if we can’t generate enough revenue.”

The society has since launched a GoFundMe campaign to help cover costs.

Allen said the campaign was originally met with enthusiasm but has slowed down over the last few weeks.

“The worry is we now have this building and we owe the bank money. As with any lender, you only have so much time,” he said.

As per the website, a total of $8,475 has been raised to date from 33 donors.

Although the society is requesting help, Allen stressed that board members are still confident the building can be operated successfully by a not-for-profit; the group just needs some help getting started.

Speaking in front of the opera house, Pearse said the society was thankful for community support for both the opera house and the festival.

“It’s encouraging,” he said. “Some may think it’s slow but it’s progress.”

Pearse previously told the South Shore Breaker that the society has plans to finish renovations to the basement and upper levels of the building, eventually making it available to renters.

Since its purchase, the opera house has been a venue for several events in town, most recently a performance by fiddler Ashley MacIsaac.

The opera house is scheduled to be used for the upcoming Folk Harbour Festival, which runs from Aug. 8 until 11.

Donations can be made here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/Save-the-LOH

Watch a Youtube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbGsYjUEZJ8

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