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The Paxton Theater: Bainbridge, Ohio
Bainbridge, Ohio sits on the southwest corner of Ross County, and is home to the Seip Earthworks, Paint Creek State Park, and the Harris Dental Museum – the U.S’s first Dental School. Bainbridge is one of Ross county’s smaller, more rural communities. The kind of place where ‘everybody knows your name’ is more a reality than a pithy saying. Today’s spotlight focuses on the beloved Paxton Theatre, located on the corner of Main and Maple, and home to the state’s longest-running country music show. The Paxton Theatre has long captivated hearts and memories of the community.
The lot was originally owned by the local Methodist church, which decided to find a new location after burning three times. Hailing its name from the farmers of Paxton township, whose petitioning of the trustees pushed the construction of the theater into motion. Bid to a Chillicothe contractor the building contains one large main hall and four additional smaller rooms. Originally called the Paxton Township Hall, by 1914 the main space was being rented out to show motion pictures which were commonplace through the early ’50s. The other four rooms have been rented out to a number of local businesses, and once housed the village library for a number of years.
In 1968 the trustees decided to sell the Township Hall to the public, with the first owner James Krug renting it out for various entertainment purposes for more than 20 years. It changed hands again in 1992 when Ralph Cooper took over. Dedicated to the history of the theater he presented the long-standing Paint Valley Jamboree as the country music event of the summer. Beloved by performers and attendees alike, the Paint Valley Jamboree is known to give a stage to some country music’s favorites before they get their big breaks. As Mr. Copper’s health began to decline, things started to slow down at the theater. In 2014 a local couple from the neighboring community of Hillsboro bought the Paxton theater with the dream of keeping its historic and communal significance alive and well. Tim and Deb Koehl poured time and money into the theater, updating sound, video, curtains, and lighting to make sure the tradition could continue on better than ever.
The Paxton Today
Tim and Deb still own and operate the Paxton Theater. And despite Covid-19 putting a temporary halt on things, this year they are back and better than ever. In its 57th season, they have implemented new live streaming technologies, new ticket areas, and even a bar featuring 50 West beer. Keeping things fun, new, and safe they’ve grown the Jamboree to more than any of those original farmers could have imagined. You can visit the town of Bainbridge and grab a bite to eat at the adjacently placed Paxton restaurant, and you can follow both the Paxton Theater and the Paint Valley Jamboree on their Facebook pages to know about upcoming events.
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