The Hippo


Dec 7, 2019








The MainStreet Warner Music, Film and Comedy Festival is the first for the stage at the Jim Mitchell Community Park, pictured. Courtesy photo.

Films in Warner

Where: Jim Mitchell Community Park, 16 E. Main St., Warner
MainStreet Warner Music, Film and Comedy Festival: Saturday, Aug. 15, 4 to 10 p.m.
Outdoor Documentary Film Series: Dirt! The Movie is Tuesday, Aug. 25, at 7 p.m., and Genetic Roulette is Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m.
Cost: All films free; donations accepted

First flicks
MainStreet Warner hosts first film series and festival

By Kelly Sennott

The big screen has hit Warner.

Well, a 10-foot by 10-foot one made from from recycled billboard vinyl material, anyway — since MainStreet Warner finished building the Jim Mitchell Community Park stage last year, the space, located right behind MainStreet BookEnds, has seen a lot of cultural activity. Musical concerts happen every week, and farmers markets every Tuesday, but brand new on the agenda: film.
In addition to its environment-conscious movie series — which kicked off July 28 with Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us? — the stage will host the organization’s first MainStreet Warner Music, Film and Comedy Festival Saturday, Aug. 15.
The summer programming has been very “grassroots,” said Ben Dobrowski, who organizes stage events for MainStreet Warner.
“It’s kind of been, get the event scheduled and see what happens. This isn’t my full-time job; I’m unpaid. It’s all volunteerism on my part, and that’s the same with everyone involved with the board, until we can come up with some more funding,” he said. “But so far it’s been a great summer. We’ve had people come out for all the concerts we’ve had.”
And it’s been a very full summer, compared to those in recent years.
“This is the first year any regular events have been happening there since the bookstore hosted Friday Nights in Warner,” Dobrowski said.
That was more than 10 years ago, before Jim Mitchell, after whom the park is named, died. Brother of bookstore owner Katharine Nevins, he spearheaded a lot of the downtown Warner activity (and coined the phrase MainStreet Warner regularly quotes, “Something wonderful is happening in Warner.”) 
“We’re basically picking up where he left off, whether it be a concert or a reading,” Dobrowski said. “When there’s something going on on Friday or Saturday, it gives people a reason to stay in town or come to town.”
This is a summer of firsts; in addition to its being the first summer with regular programming, it’s also the summer with regular outdoor films. The series, with its theme of sustainability, fits well with the venue; MainStreet BookEnds and the park stage are solar-powered, and the plants lining the grounds are fed through a rainwater irrigation system. Next on the agenda: a community garden, which will most likely happen next year. Upcoming film showings include Dirt! The Movie on Tuesday, Aug. 25, and Genetic Roulette on Tuesday, Sept. 29. 
Initially, the festival this weekend was to be movie-focused, but organizers have expanded it to include a variety of art. From 4 to 8 p.m., there will be music by Delanie Pickering (of Concord) Beechwood (of Henniker) and DoBros (from Warner) and comedy by James Mullan, Paul Landwehr and Joe Mitchel. Just after, indie short films submitted by New England filmmakers will light up the recycled stage screen.
“The venue is just remarkable,” said Lindsey Schust, a filmmaker whose flick, Hippie Hill Music Video, is one of the six to screen at the festival, complete with pick-up trucks, horseshoe tournaments, plaid shirts and mullet hairdos.
She also says this as a community member — she lives in Andover but often visits the park to attend concerts and the weekly farmers market — and as a musician whose band, The Ragged Mountain Band, performs there Sept. 5. It’s top-of-the-line compared to the other local places they play: in town commons with gazebos that require performers to lug their own equipment.
“It’s beautifully constructed,” Schust said. “And the sound, you can hear it across the street at the ice cream store.”
Dobrowski hopes to get a solid turnout.
“It’s basically first-come, first-served seating; there’s plenty of room and a lovely terrace amphitheater. Audience members are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, blankets,” he said. “We’re going to be making locally prepared food during [the festival] and the film series ... with prices pay-what-you-can.” 
As seen in the August 13, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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