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Homestead Community Concerts – a Model for Recovery

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Posted: Friday, August 25, 2017 12:45 am

   The Homestead Community Concert Association was formed in 1976 as part of our community’s contribution to the Bicentennial celebrations.

   By the time Hurricane hit I 1992 membership had swollen to nearly 1,600.  The theater at South Dade High School auditorium only seated 1,000 so many of our members worried that more than 1,000 members would show up for a concert.  It never happened.

   When the hurricane hit the board had already contracted for concert entertainers.  The auditorium was badly damaged. 

   Then Florida congressman John Cosgrove met me at the auditorium to assess damage.  John had just had

surgery so he was wearing pajamas, but he was determined to get the ball rolling on reconstruction.

   Michael Spring of the Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs Department provided invaluable help in assessing the needs. 

   The price was $600,000, John thought he could get $300,000 from the State of Florida so he arranged for the two of us to meet with the Miami-Dade School District Superintendent Octavio Visiedo in his office.  John was a great arm twister and source of Miami-Dade County state of Florida funding. 

   It was not long before the Superintendent agreed to pay half and allow County Cultural Affairs Department to take the lead on the reconstruction project.

   Michael Spring put us in contact with leading theater and light and sound consultants.  We had the very best – the same ones who consulted on the South Dade Cultural Center in Cutler Bay and the Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami.

    We had to find a place to provide our season of entertainment.  We settled on the Harris Field Barn which had no exterior walls. 

    Jim Pierce took on the job of finding plastic materials to use as curtains if you will to keep the cold and road noise out.  Jim put the screens up before concerts and took them down after the concerts, a monumental task.

   Many of our members who moved away told us to keep their money.  Our membership dropped somewhat.  We put on a full season of shows.

   The national Community Concert organization was impressed with the grit with which we returned to life.  They invited me to come to the annual national meeting which was to take place in New Orleans, LA at their expense. 

   I did and presented a program on how to recover after a natural disaster.  I probably emphasized the necessity for folks to have entertainment in their own community and that one should never give up.

   The South Dade High School auditorium was returned to service with a larger stage suitable for dance and high quality sound and lighting systems.  The stage was also handicap accessible and had a fireproof curtain. 

   Eventually we moved into the even higher quality auditorium in the new South Dade High School.  And life went on.

Bob Jensen is a retired US Navy Commander and president of the Florida Pioneer Museum and the Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum.

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