Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Time to upgrade with new chairs at the Paradise March 24, 2023

Inside the Paradise Center for the Arts theater in 2009, two years after it opened. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2009)

THEY’VE HAD A 16-YEAR RUN, “they” being the recycled seats filling the Paradise Center for the Arts theater in historic downtown Faribault. Now it’s time for those seats to take a bow, exit and make way for new seating.

The aged chairs landed here as a donation from Albert Lea High School. The Merlin Players theatrical troupe then recovered and repaired the chairs before the PCA opened in 2007. It was the right decision at the time, financially and otherwise.

Watching the 2015 Kentucky Derby at the Paradise. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo May 2015)

Since then, thousands have settled into those orangish chairs, including me. I’ve enjoyed plays, musicals, concerts, comedy shows, speakers and even a viewing of the Kentucky Derby while sitting on those chairs. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried while seated here. After years of use, an upgrade to more comfortable seating for 278 is definitely needed.

In the lobby of the Paradise, you can try out a model of the new chairs, with the original ornate standards (ends) retained. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2023)

When I stopped at the Paradise recently to see the current gallery exhibits, I noticed a model of the new seats in the lobby. Days later, I received a news release from the PCA with more info and then followed up with a few questions.

I like the plan to install chairs with more comfort, strength and durability, but also with an appreciation for the past. The current ornate ends and the numbered arm rests will be kept. That’s important to me given the historic charm of the auditorium and also as someone who believes strongly in reusing/recycling/upcycling.

One especially nice addition will be cup holders, placed between the two seats in front of each guest. That will certainly cut down on accidental spillage which can occur when drinks are set on the floor.

The lovely Paradise, 321 Central Avenue North, in the heart of historic downtown Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2023)

Now efforts are underway to fund this $460/chair or $128,000 project via donations. If you would like to donate, go to the Paradise website and click on “Donate,” then “Support,” then specify “chairs” in designating your donation. Or call 507-332-7372. Donors will be listed on a plaque.

I look forward to settling into one of these comfortable new maroon chairs to enjoy the performing arts in my community, inside the Paradise.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


16 Responses to “Time to upgrade with new chairs at the Paradise”

  1. I love seeing the historic places in our communities preserved. It’s so important.

  2. beth Says:

    the new seats are beautiful, and like you, I’m happy they added in a nod to the past, along with modern conveniences. well done. p.s. I really like the Kentucky Derby hats, so cool they do that.

  3. Very nice — I am sure they will be a great addition.

  4. $460 a chair! yikes but such a worthy cause. Though at this point I can’t even afford a new desk chair for myself so I spend all day slowly sinking to the ground. One of these theatre chairs look pretty comfy at the moment!

    • Hey, I need a new office chair, too, but have not begun looking for one yet. Mine isn’t sinking. Rather the seat is ripping. If you run across any affordable and comfy office chairs, I’d love to hear your recommendation. I really don’t like shopping, for anything.

  5. Larry Gavin Says:

    My family went to the old Albert Lea high school on a hot day and helped remove the seats. They were shrink wrapped and put in trucks donated by a local trucking company. The seats were beautiful, and when refurbished, functional.
    It was a long, satisfying day. Enjoyed remembering that day.

    • Larry, thank you and your family for volunteering to gather those chairs from Albert Lea and move them to Faribault. Question (and one which I asked, but didn’t get an answer): Were the ornate standard ends and numbers part of the Albert Lea High School chairs? Or were they part of the original Paradise chairs?

      • Larry Gavin Says:

        The ends of each row were ornate, not each chair(as I recall). As a side note, the high school was poised to be torn down when we were there, and it was still one of the most beautiful theaters I have ever been in. Rich wooden beams and a giant central light that was amazing.

      • Thank you for the info on the chairs, Larry. I’m so sorry that beautiful theater was torn down. It sounds like it should have been saved. Hopefully other elements of the school were salvaged and reused, like the chairs were here.

  6. Valerie Says:

    I look forward to the new chairs at the Paradise too. I enjoy that historic theater.

  7. Bill Skoglund Says:

    Hi Just wondering if you knew about the story on Facebook about Vesta. City of Vesta MN Bill

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