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June 10, 2011 / Arlington Unwrapped

An Arlington Best-Kept-Secret: Lubber Run – The Little Amphitheater that Could

Park Entrance

One of the reasons I love Arlington, and continue to live here after all these years, is that while progress is always at the forefront of County decisions, as a community we do strive to maintain and protect some of the small town charm that makes Arlington so unique.  One recent example is the Lubber Run Amphitheater.

Seating

Situated at the intersection of North Columbus and North 2nd Street, the Amphitheater has been an outdoor summer institution in Arlington for over 40 years. Nestled among the trees of Lubber Run Park, it has hosted professional and amateur performances in a variety of different genres. There’s bench seating for over 700, and terraces for picnicking while you watch productions.  There’s parking on site, its near a bus line, and Lubber Run has multiple entrances for abutting neighborhoods. The stage itself is accessible during the day, and beyond the summer, and therefore hosted some of my own, impromptu, childhood performances as well….

Lubber Run Park

Bathrooms

The amphitheater is one of my fondest memories from growing up here in the 1980s. All summer long it would play host to musicals, barbershop quartets, movie nights… and then there was the biggest rock star of them all (in the eyes of any self-respecting 6-year-old): that’s right…. Bob Brown Puppets.

My family would walk down through the park from our single family home in Arlington Forest, dragging coolers and blankets in our wake.  We’d go early to get a premium spot on the terrace, spread out a blanket, and sip our juice boxes (while our parents sipped contraband cocktails). We’d run wild with other kids from the neighborhood, climbing trees, skipping rocks in the creek, standing impatiently in the bathroom line, and begging for 50 cents because we heard the dulcet tones of the ice cream man (again, this was the 80s, you could actually buy a rocket pop for less than a dollar). And then when it got dark enough, the show would begin!

There’s typically a lot of variety when it comes to acts so every summer there should, in fact, be something for everyone. I remember Eddie from Ohio played there a couple times in the mid-90s, which was a big hit among my friends and I at the time. The Children’s Theater of Arlington (another best kept secret by the way) once did a production of A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream that I still point to as the reason I like Shakespeare.

Gradually, as financial support dwindled, the number of productions, and the quality of the acts did so as well. The amphitheater was becoming run-down. Maybe the County Board thought no one would notice when they decided repairs and funding were not a priority and the Amphitheater should be shut down.

The Amphitheater today

People noticed. What resulted was a public outcry (and a 700 signature petition) and as a result the county retained a firm to assess the conditions at the amphitheater and determine how much it would cost to preserve. The study, in winter of 2011, suggested it could take up to $3.5 million to get it back up to code – well more than county coffers could handle. Residents, led by the Arlington Forest Civic Association, immediately formed the Lubber Run Amphitheater Foundation, and developed official recommendations on less expensive fixes  – ones that totaled less than $100,000.

The county listened – and in May they approved a plan to make the necessary improvements and let the amphitheater continue as a fantastic summer venue and family favorite for Arlingtonians old and new.

Thanks to the efforts of the community, The Summer 2011 Season at the Amphitheater starts July 29th. You can follow the group on Facebook and Twitter for renovation and scheduling updates!

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